How supermarkets fight food waste in Singapore

Food being distributed at a Food Bank Singapore event in Bedok. Food waste generated in Singapore has increased by 40 per cent in the last decade.
Food being distributed at a Food Bank Singapore event in Bedok. Food waste generated in Singapore has increased by 40 per cent in the last decade.PHOTO: THE FOOD BANK SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Last month, 24-hour store Mustafa Centre was found to be disposing of nearly 100kg of fruits and vegetables daily, sparking concerns about food waste in Singapore.

According to the National Environmental Agency, the amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 40 per cent over the past 10 years.

This number is expected to increase with Singapore's growing population and economic activity.

Last year alone, 676,800 tonnes of food waste was disposed of. Only 133,000 tonnes of food waste was recycled. The remaining food waste was disposed of at waste-to-energy plants for incineration.

Mustafa Centre typically throws out produce that remains unsold after three days, Shin Min Daily News reported.

It also receives new stock of fruits and vegetables daily.

"There are no stipulated rules or regulations in place, with employees free to determine what types of produce should be disposed of and what can be kept," a worker from Mustafa Centre told Shin Min.

But most major supermarkets - including Giant, Cold Storage, FairPrice and Sheng Siong - emphasised the importance of minimising food waste and environmental sustainability, when interviewed by The New Paper.

Sound purchasing policy and proper inventory management systems help supermarkets prevent overordering from suppliers.

Reduced-to-clear promotions for fruits and vegetables that are close to expiry or blemished are a common strategy adopted by these supermarkets.

A FairPrice spokesman told TNP that by doing so, it was able to save 675,000kg of fruits and vegetables across 145 stores islandwide last year.

Where products still remain unsold, FairPrice donates them to Food from the Heart (FFTH) as part of a long-term partnership.

The donations amount to more than $25,000 worth of items monthly, distributed across 41 charities.

"Over the recent Hari Raya, we partnered FFTH and Food Bank (another charity) to benefit the community in line with their celebrations for the month of Ramadan.

"We also supported Ngee Ann Polytechnic's 10-Tonne Food Drive for Food Bank, which gives to the needy and reduces food waste by providing three collection points for the public to drop off their food donations," the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: "Our efforts are paying off as we contribute less than 0.3 per cent of the yearly total food waste generated in Singapore."

RECYCLE

As part of an initiative to recycle food waste, Giant hypermarkets at Tampines and Suntec have installed the Eco-Wiz, an on-site food waste treatment system that converts food waste to potable water.

The water is then used for a number of applications in store, such as general washing and cleaning.

Organic supermarket Ryan's Grocery provides staff discounts and gives away items to drivers so they can distribute to their family and friends to combat food waste.

"As we deal with organic food, we not only appreciate the farmers for their effort, but we also believe strongly in sustainability," a spokesman for Ryan's Grocery told TNP.

It also puts up a box for items that are near expiry and allows customers to pick any items they want free of charge.

In return, customers have to donate at least a dollar to the Association for Persons with Special Needs, which Ryan's Grocery supports.

The box, with items such as fruits, vegetables, meat and frozen foods, is put up when the supermarket has goods to clear.

The Ryan's Grocery spokesman told TNP: "Through these initiatives, we are usually able to clear any produce within two to three days and our friendly neighbours love it.

"Drivers are also more than happy as they are able to try our gourmet foods."

In April, Sheng Siong helped the anti-food waste effort by supporting the Food Unfiltered campaign, which was launched by four final-year students from Nanyang Technological University.

The campaign encouraged members of the public to embrace "ugly food" as a simple way to reduce food waste in Singapore and featured educational posters across Sheng Siong supermarkets.

Said Ms Lin Ruiwen, executive director of Sheng Siong Group: "It is natural that not all fresh produce is perfect-looking. Small blemishes can definitely be tolerated."