More in Singapore taking steps to cut food wastage

According to a survey, 80 per cent of respondents are "bothered" when uneaten food is thrown away.
According to a survey, 80 per cent of respondents are "bothered" when uneaten food is thrown away.PHOTO: ST FILE

More people in Singapore are concerned about food wastage and are taking steps to do their part.

A recent study commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA) showed that 80 per cent of respondents are "bothered" when uneaten food is thrown away and know of the environmental impact of food waste.

It also found that more people have adopted various habits to reduce food waste, compared with a similar survey in 2015 of 1,000 people.

These include taking away unfinished food when dining out and not over-catering when hosting guests.

The new survey, which was released yesterday, involved interviewing 1,000 Singapore residents face to face between March and April.

About 56 per cent said they would take away unfinished food when eating out, up from 44 per cent in 2015.

And 32 per cent said they were open to buying fruits and vegetables with slight imperfections, compared with 23 per cent four years ago.

Respondents were also more open to buying food close to its expiry date at a discount, with the figure shooting up from 18 per cent in 2015 to 38 per cent this year.

About 3 per cent were also composting food waste at home.

  • How to do your part

  • The National Environment Agency (NEA) has a few tips on how to reduce food waste this holiday season.

    • Avoid preparing more food than is needed.

    • Opt for less rice or noodles. Carbohydrate items are the most commonly wasted dishes.

    • Avoid giving perishable items as gifts.

    • Use leftovers for other meals.

    More tips on reducing food waste and recipes that use leftovers can be found on an NEA guide at cgs.gov.sg/programmes/food-waste-reduction-programme.

    Businesses such as food and beverage operators and supermarkets are also encouraged to minimise waste by offering smaller portions and selling expiring food at lower prices or donating it to the needy.

    The NEA's waste minimisation guidebooks developed for retail establishments, food manufacturers and supermarkets can be downloaded at www.nea.gov.sg/food-waste-management

    The NEA Food Waste Management webpage has more information on areas of collaboration in the area of minimising food waste.

    Vanessa Liu

The survey identified two key motivations in reducing food waste - saving money was cited by 93 per cent of respondents and protecting the environment, at 92 per cent.

But it also noted that 80 per cent wanted more information on how to reduce waste.

The NEA said yesterday: "Many thought that more information, such as how to store food and ingredients to make them last longer and how to share excess food, could help them reduce food wastage.

"They also said they would waste less food if they had the option to order smaller portions at eating establishments."

Last year, 763,100 tonnes of food waste were generated - down about 5 per cent from the 809,800 tonnes thrown out in 2017.

Non-governmental organisations have been working with the community to tackle the problem.

Foodscape Collective, a community for sustainable food systems, has been encouraging people to turn food scraps not used for consumption into compost.

Founding member Pui Cuifen said the survey's questions and tips are useful to get consumers started on reducing food waste but do not provide a broad enough picture.

 
 
 
 

She suggested including additional questions, such as whether consumers are willing to buy meat and other food items - and not just fruits and vegetables - with perceived imperfections as these are frequently taken off shelves or are not considered saleable.

Ms Pui is also not convinced by the NEA's tip to avoid giving perishable items as gifts: "(I'm) not sure about this. Fruits and vegetables can make great gifts, as long as they are not wasted.

"Non-perishable food could be wasted if it is not wanted."

Since its launch earlier this year, the Towards Zero Waste Grant has supported about 270 ground-up events and projects, including around 130 activities to drive action to reduce food waste.

The government grant supports individuals, interest groups, corporations, non-governmental and grassroots organisations in driving waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2019, with the headline 'More in S'pore taking steps to cut food wastage'. Print Edition | Subscribe