Rising disposable income levels have led to more comfortable lives for current generations. But as our affluence grows, so does our consumption of goods and services. This in turn generates waste, with the amount of waste disposed of in Singapore increasing by over seven times over the last 40 years.
How we consume is influenced by social
norms, such as pressure to over-order food at
meals, keep up with fashion trends, or get the
latest mobile phone model.
To promote more sustainable consumption,
we need to do more and better with less. This
can be achieved by having a reduce and reuse
mindset, and by shifting towards the use of
To reduce waste, we need to be conscious
consumers, mindful of the materials and
energy poured into every product or meal.
The ongoing fight to curb food waste
The battle to cut food waste is intensifying,
with more organisations joining hands
to spread the message of sustainable
The NEA launched a food waste reduction
publicity and outreach programme in
November 2015 to raise awareness of
Singapore’s food waste situation and
encourage consumers to adopt smart food
purchase, storage and preparation habits to
help them minimise food wastage.
Informational advertisements and
educational videos on practical ways to
reduce food waste were featured on various
mass media platforms to reach the public.
A comprehensive handy guide was also
developed and made available online and
distributed at community events. It provided
tips on reducing food waste in different
scenarios, such as when cooking at home,
eating out or organising events.
The NEA has been ramping up engagement
efforts, such as talks, food waste reduction
demonstrations and other activities with
support from the Food Waste Reduction
Ambassadors (FWRAs) programme. To date,
more than 400 ambassadors have been
trained to help spread the word on food waste
reduction to their communities, families
The NEA’s food waste reduction publicity and outreach programme was launched in November 2015. In 2019, the key message was to encourage everyone to “Buy, Order or Cook Just Enough”
Four years on, as part of the 2019 Year
Towards Zero Waste, the NEA partnered 25
hawker centres and organisations such as
Dairy Farm Singapore, NTUC FairPrice, Prime
Supermarket and Sheng Siong Supermarket,
as well as schools and Institutes of Higher
Learning, to engage consumers at points-ofconsumption.
Together, they promote three key actions that
consumers can adopt to reduce food waste
– order only what you can finish, ask for less
rice or noodles if you cannot finish them and
to say “no” to side dishes you will not eat.
Among the campaign’s features were visual
reminders, such as wobblers, table-top
stickers, wallscapes and pillar wraps, and
an edutainment web series that inspires
viewers to incorporate food waste reduction
practices into their day-to-day lives.
Launch of Say YES To Waste Less campaign at IKEA Tampines on 8 June 2019. The event was
launched by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor
Tackling single-use disposables
Just as important is the need to address the
problem of disposables that are often used
for only a short period before being thrown
The Say YES to Waste Less campaign was
launched on 8 June 2019 to build public
awareness on excessive consumption, the
impact on Singapore’s environment and future
generations, and the need for reduction.
With the campaign message, “Make the Right
Choice. Choose Reusables”, consumers were
encouraged to take simple, actionable steps to
reduce their impact on the environment. They
could start simply by using a reusable bottle,
bag or food container instead of disposables.
At its launch, the campaign brought
together 59 partners, with support from
over 1,600 outlets and premises from
across the F&B, retail, commercial and
community sectors. These partners helped
to nudge consumers to make the right
choice at points of consumption using a
wide range of initiatives. These included
visual reminders at cashier points, training
of cashiers and providing incentives for
The campaign also included district events
and 100 roadshows in collaboration with
the community to build awareness and
To further reduce the use of disposables,
the NEA disallowed their use for dine-in
at new hawker centres such as at Our
Tampines Hub, Pasir Ris Central and
Yishun Park. The NEA has also extended
this requirement to new stallholders
operating in existing hawker centres.
There has also been increasing support from
the private sector to tackle the excessive
use of disposables. Several F&B retail
outlets such as KFC Singapore, Burger King
Singapore and Resorts World Sentosa no
longer provide plastic straws at their outlets.
Yakult Singapore also started selling its
probiotic cultured milk drink without straws.
Packaging-free grocery stores have also
emerged, where packaging is eliminated.
They encourage customers to bring their
own containers, and allow them to buy what
they need instead of a pre-packaged amount.
These stores also offer more competitive
prices as going without packaging reduces
the cost of its products by an estimated
10%, allowing customers to save both the
environment and money.
Opened in 2018 by Ms Florence Tay and Mr Jeff Lam, the aim of social enterprise UnPackt is to encourage
consumption consciousness so that customers only buy what they need. This also provides fresher food items while
generating less packaging and food waste. Another core objective of UnPackt is to educate the public about zero
waste through workshops, community outreach with schools and corporations, and collaborations with like-minded
social enterprises. Photo: UnPackt Pte Ltd
REUSE AND DONATE
How often have you thrown away a pair of
jeans still in mint condition because it no
longer fits, or a rice cooker that broke down
after just a couple of months?
Often, these items can be repaired, donated
or sold second-hand. We want to establish
a habit of reuse in the community, such that
we will not easily discard unwanted or faulty
To promote the repair trade, the NEA has
allocated space in some hawker centres for
businesses which repair small household
appliances or clothing, and will continue
to explore new ways to make it more
convenient for people to repair their goods.
This includes compiling a list of repair
options in Singapore.
Another avenue is to equip Singaporeans
with basic repair skills and empower
more individuals to enter the repair
trade. Therefore, we are supporting nongovernmental
organisations (NGOs) and
corporates, such as Repair Kopitiam , to
promote repair workshops and courses
in the community.
Residents from every corner of Singapore have
been turning up at a void deck in Jurong West
and in Tampines to seek the help of repair
gurus at Repair Kopitiam sessions every last
Sunday of the month. Repair coaches teach
people how to fix their spoilt items. Organised by
social enterprise Sustainable Living Lab, Repair
Kopitiam aims to tackle the throwaway culture. It
has also organised courses to impart repair skills
and support active ageing in the community. Photo: Repair Kopitiam
We can also tap on existing platforms to
share or buy second-hand items, such as
mobile applications or physical stores.
To facilitate the sharing of less frequently
used items in the neighbourhood, such
as ladders and trolleys, the People’s
Association (PA) launched Resource Centre
@ Residents’ Committee (RC) in 2016.
Need a chiller box for a house party or a trolley to move some furniture? These items can be
borrowed from your nearby RC or Residents’ Network (RN) Resource Centre. PA launched the
Resource Centre @ RC in 2016 across 460 RCs in Singapore. Photo: PA
However, many Singaporeans are still
unfamiliar with what they can do with
their used clothing, shoes, bags and other
reusables. Instead of donating these items, they often discard them in the blue recycling
bins. Therefore, the NEA will be studying
how to make donating more convenient,
going beyond the list of second-hand shops
and donation points currently found on its
website. This could include making donation
stations accessible to more Singaporeans.
As for the donation of excess food, the NEA
and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) have
produced a set of guidelines to promote
food safety, which includes how to manage
pre-packed or perishable food, and transport
donated food to recipients.
To further nudge people to donate extra food,
the NEA will be working with SFA, National
Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and
other stakeholders on new initiatives. One
such possibility is a Good Samaritan Law,
which has been implemented overseas to
provide legal protection to food donors.
Spending your money on environmentally-friendly
products is a powerful way of
endorsing a greener planet. The Singapore
Green Label Scheme (SGLS), the NEA’s
Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS) for household appliances, and Logo for
Products with Reduced Packaging support
such decisions as they identify products
with minimum environmental impact or
are made with recycled, recyclable or less
Not only do we want more companies to
design their products with environmental
considerations or import more greenlabelled
products, but we also want them to
adopt a green procurement policy.
The Government has adopted a green
public procurement policy under the Public
Sector Taking the Lead in Environmental
Sustainability (PSTLES) initiative. For example, all Government agencies are
required to purchase energy efficient
appliances with minimum MELS ticks,
and white printing paper certified by SGLS.