NEA launches year-long battle against food wastage

The year-long drive, part of the Year Towards Zero Waste campaign, was launched at Yishun Park Hawker Centre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - With food waste among the five largest sources of waste in Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) hopes to get people to adopt three habits when eating out so as to combat wastage.

The year-long drive, part of the Year Towards Zero Waste campaign, was launched by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor at Yishun Park Hawker Centre on Saturday (Feb 16).

It encourages people to order only what they can finish; ask for less rice or noodles if they are unable to eat that much; and say "no" to side dishes they will not consume.

NEA will be reaching out to people at 25 hawker centres and at partner organisations such as Sheng Siong Supermarket and Prime Supermarket.

It will also spread the message at schools and institutions of higher learning. Last year, more than 150 schools organised food waste reduction activities.

Dr Khor said that outreach efforts will be conducted at hawker centres, which are one of the most popular eating spots for Singaporeans.

"Actually there are also benefits in terms of eating more healthily, because you don't overeat. Usually if you don't want to waste, then you just eat everything up. Also, it is good for the pocket, because you can save money if you don't over-order," she said.

Apart from such efforts on the ground, there will also be publicity on digital platforms, with a Web series featuring public figures incorporating food waste reduction practices into their daily lives, to inspire viewers to do the same.

"Singaporeans love their food, yet food waste is the second-largest waste stream to be disposed of. There is clearly more we can and should do together," said NEA chief executive officer Tan Meng Dui.

"We would like to create a pervasive culture where everyone will have an instinct to 'buy, order and cook just enough', encourage their friends and family to do the same, and even influence the practices and behaviours at their workplaces towards reducing food waste."

In Singapore, food waste has risen 40 per cent over the past 10 years, from 568,000 tonnes disposed of by households and the food industry in 2008 to around 809,800 tonnes in 2017.

This made up 23 per cent of total waste disposed of in Singapore in 2017, with only 16 per cent recycled.

The top five waste types in 2017 were construction debris (1,609,300 tonnes), ferrous metal (1,378,800), paper/cardboard (1,144,800), plastic (815,200) and food.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who is chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Water Resources, called the anti-food waste campaign "timely".

"I remember when I was young, my mum used to tell us 'Don't waste food, there are still people in this world who do not have food'. And this advice is still valid," said Ms Lee.

She added that with the creeping effects of climate change, more Singaporeans have ambitions about saving the Earth, and this latest campaign also works towards that.

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