SINGAPORE - Singapore-based sustainable packaging firm Tria is partnering with KFC on a pilot project that aims to recycle food and packaging waste from one of the fast-food chain's local outlets into fertilisers for agriculture use, the company's chief executive Ng Pei Kang said on Tuesday (June 21).
The pilot started earlier this month at KFC's outlet at Northpoint City in Yishun.
Mr Ng told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the official launch event in Tuas that the six-month pilot would also involve close collaboration with Norwegian fertiliser giant Yara International to help it assess the commercial viability of scaling the pilot to make a product that is compliant with international global standards.
"With Yara, we will look at how we can further improve and enhance the product such that this becomes commercial grade fertiliser, making this a full loop right from cradle to the farm," said Mr Ng, adding that the urgency to find sustainable alternative sources of fertilisers was now more pronounced following the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Western sanctions on Russia, a major exporter of fertilisers, have disrupted shipments of these natural resources globally, forcing farmers worldwide to scale back usage and reduce the amount of land they use for growing essential crops such as wheat, corn and rice.
"The Tria-KFC organic recycling pilot is an important example of projects which can help smallholder (farmers who work on plots that average 1.2ha) and commercial farmers and governments achieve food security, while ensuring sustainability in Singapore and other nations around the world," said Ms Marisa Soares, vice-president - Farming Solutions, Africa and Asia at Yara International.
She added that scaling such projects would require more partners within the food chain getting more aggressive in adopting sustainable solutions, similar to KFC Singapore.
"This will require investment from all concerned, but we aim to prove that closing the loop in this ecosystem can be financially sustainable, while having a positive impact on our natural resources," she said.
"Should we be successful in this project, we will leverage our regional and global presence to create a marketplace for this solution, leveraging our connectivity and presence on the farm to support farmers and to help them adopt and use new solutions that would have a positive impact - not only on the soil, but also on crops and on helping to reduce carbon emissions."
Mr Ng said Tria will work alongside Singapore-listed recycling and environmental services company Shanaya to collect the waste bags from the KFC outlet, which will then be transported to the waste processing facility currently located at the premises of Shanaya's waste management plant in Tuas.
By recycling food waste that would otherwise have to be incinerated, the collaboration with KFC helps to drive greater sustainability in the food services industry and support the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Mr Ng said.
"Such ownership is imperative in driving circular food systems because we know that circularity cannot be done in isolation," said Mr Ng, while encouraging potential partners interested in shaping the future of circular food systems to come forward and team up with it.
KFC Singapore's general manager Lynette Lee said it will review the results and assess the viability of scaling the programme across all its restaurants in Singapore at the end of the pilot.
"Through this partnership, KFC Singapore aims to continue our efforts for the environment and take the lead to bring together zero waste close-loop recycling concept in the food and beverage industry," said Ms Lee.
KFC Singapore's environmental sustainability efforts go back to 2016 when all its restaurants here switched from paper boxes to reusable baskets for dine-in orders, and in 2018, it was the first to stop the use of plastic straws.
Under the current initiative, Tria will also be supplying KFC's outlet in Yishun with the single-use plant-based food packaging items.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, the guest of honour at the event, emphasised the importance of innovation in Singapore accomplishing its zero waste goals.
"Clever circular economy solutions like what we see today have the potential to break the cycle of escalating waste. Innovation is critical for sustainable development, especially with rising global demand for food supplies and fast-depleting resources," she said.
The collaboration was facilitated by Enterprise Singapore under the Enterprise Sustainability Programme launched in 2021 that supports Singapore companies to build capabilities and capture new opportunities in the green economy.