Singapore – Approximately S$342 million worth of food is thrown out by Singapore households in a year, sparking a call for a change in eating habits and an overhaul of the food supply chain to address the problem.
“People do not believe they waste more food even though they are eating more buffets, catering more food than needed when hosting parties, and not taking away unfinished food when eating out,” said Dr Augustine Quek in a straitstimes.com report on Sunday (Nov 22).
Dr Quek is a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and former programme manager at the NUS Environmental Research Institute.
Food waste continues to be one of the biggest waste streams in Singapore, with the amount growing by around 20 per cent over the last decade, according to the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE).
“In 2019, Singapore generated around 744 million kg of food waste. That is equivalent to 2 bowls of rice per person per day, or around 51,000 double-decker buses,” noted MSE in its “Zero Waste Masterplan”.
A study by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) indicated that Singapore households throw away around 26,000 tonnes (26 million kg) of unconsumed food, worth about S$342 million, annually.
“Food waste is a huge problem not just because it adds to Singapore’s only landfill – which is expected to be full by 2035 – but also because of the significant amount of resources and energy that goes into growing, processing and transporting food,” said Ms Pek Hai Lin, the executive director of non-profit Zero Waste SG.
As an example, Ms Pek highlighted that throwing a burger away does not only equate to discarding the ingredients. “You’re throwing away energy, money, time, water. You’re throwing away people’s effort, blood, sweat and tears.”
Dr Quek added that “eating habits need to change in order to reduce the problem of food waste”. However, he cautioned that social norms like this often take time to change.
Ways to minimise food wastage
In its website, the MSE provides three ways individuals could minimise food waste. One would be to buy, order and cook only what could be finished. Another suggestion was to turn leftovers into new dishes. Lastly, excess food could be donated to food distribution organisations such as the Food Bank Singapore, Food From The Heart, Fei Yue Community Services or Willing Hearts.
Businesses could offer different portion size options and indicate serving sizes to help minimise food waste. “This not only helps reduce food wastage due to overbuying but also allows for the preservation of freshness,” said the MSE.
Furthermore, experts suggest an overhaul in the food supply chain is needed to make a big difference on the issue. Novel solutions could be further developed to reintroduce food waste as useful by-products. One example mentioned by the MSE is the conversion of used water and food waste into biogas to produce electricity. /TISG
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