5 hawker centres join new Bring Your Own Container campaign to reduce packaging waste

Diners who show an ambassador that they had brought their own takeaway containers can take part in a lucky draw. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - People may have become used to buying food to go after the two-month circuit breaker, when dining in eateries was not allowed to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

But a local charity hopes people here can help to reduce the use of disposables by using their own containers.

A new Bring Your Own Container (BYOC) campaign was launched by Zero Waste SG on Saturday (Dec 19) at the Tiong Bahru Market.

Under the initiative, diners at five hawker centres will be reminded by zero-waste ambassadors during the weekends to bring their own containers or to refuse unnecessary disposables.

Diners who show an ambassador that they had brought their own takeaway containers can take part in a lucky draw and stand to win prizes such as a UnionPay pre-paid cashcard.

Other than Tiong Bahru Market, the other eateries involved in the campaign include the hawker centre at Block 448 Clementi Avenue 3, Block 84 Marine Parade Central, the Kopitiam at Our Tampines Hub and Kampung Admiralty.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment, was guest of honour at the launch of the campaign.

She said that there has been an observable shift in consumption patterns due to the pandemic, with more people buying takeaway meals, and opting for online shopping.

"This shift has generated more waste in disposables. The Bring Your Own Container campaign is thus timely," she said.

Previously, the zero waste campaign had focused more on reducing the use of disposables on other fronts, such as getting shoppers to bring their own bags when grocery shopping, for instance.

Noting that all disposables, whether made of paper, plastics or degradable materials, leave a carbon footprint in their production, transportation, and disposal processes, Dr Khor said bringing containers for takeout food is something that individuals can do for the environment.

"By making small changes in our daily lives, we can help to build a greener and more sustainable Singapore for our future generations," she said.

An earlier survey done by alumni from the National University of Singapore's Master of Science (Environmental Management) programme had found that there was an extra 1,334 tonnes of takeaway packaging - equivalent to the weight of 92 double-decker buses - generated from takeaway and delivery meals during the two-month circuit breaker.

Ms Pek Hai Lin, Zero Waste SG executive director, said consumers can also save on charges for disposable containers imposed by some hawkers.

"Hawkers also save money from packaging costs, and we benefit from saved resources and cleaners will not be overworked," she said. "This is all the more important as many of us continue to work from home and have to practice social distancing."

A diner, Mr Elgin Teng, 43, said the initiative was a good effort.

The engineer noted, however, that it is convenient to bring along his own container for taking away meals if he comes from home, but less so if he was out and about. "Finding a place to wash the utensils and containers will also be challenging," he said.

Mr Joseph Tan, 46, who brought along his own container when taking away food from Tiong Bahru market, said his family has been practising this habit for awhile now. Pointing to his tingkat container, the house husband said it helps food stay warm and is easy to wash as well.

"But hawkers need to come on board too," he said, noting that it was more challenging to take away certain dishes due to portion sizes.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.