We just love our food! Visit a hawker center or food court and you will see someone tucking into a local delicacy be it chicken rice or nasi lemak even if it’s well past lunch time. But wait, if we love our food so much, why do we waste so much of it? According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), we produce close to 800 million kilograms of food waste each year. This is the equivalent of 2 bowls of food per person per day!
Why is Food Waste a Concern?
In a discussion panel as part of The Green Tingkat launch, Christopher Tan (NEA), Thomas Mattscherodt (ALBA), Travin Singh (CRUST), and Pamela Low (Treedots) shared why and how Singapore could do to reduce food waste.
The fact of the matter is Semakau Landfill is filling up quick, and is projected to be full in 2035 - only 15 years away! Being land-scarce, it doesn’t make sense for Singapore to continue to build more waste management infrastructure to deal with the increasing volumes of waste. It’s also very expensive!
We also import over 90% of our food. If our food wasting practices continue, it means we will need to import more food, and this ultimately affects our food security. According to the Singapore government, food waste makes up half of the average 1.5kg of waste disposed of by households, and more than half of this food waste can be prevented. This is known as avoidable foodwaste, essentially, food items that could have been consumed if better managed. NEA says examples of avoidable food waste are leftovers from a meal, expired food, stale food, and blemished fruits and vegetables. Avoidable food waste can be prevented by taking food wastage reduction actions such as buying, ordering and cooking only what is needed and adopting smart food storage and preparation practices.
What Can We Do?
While the government has a range of food waste outreach and publicity programmes to tackle the issue, it is also looking at novel solutions to treat food waste (e.g. food waste treatment systems to create electricity). Legislation (Resource Sustainability Act (RSA)) has also been passed that will require all large commercial and industrial food waste generators to segregate their food waste for treatment come 2024. From 2021, developers of new developments which are expected to be large food waste generators will be required to allocate and set aside space for on-site food waste treatment in their design plans. They will also be required to implement on-site food waste treatment from 2024.
By the way, it’s the UN International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on 29 September, you can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal indicator 12.3 "By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses."
Here are some simple steps you can do to reduce your food waste.
#1 Always Ask: Can You Finish It?
Whether you’re cooking at home or eating out, always ask this question before you buy, order or cook.
If you’re cooking, plan ahead and check what you already have in the kitchen. According to NEA, 24% of households often threw away spoilt or rotten food because they either bought too much food or did not realise that they had food hidden at the back of their fridge / kitchen cupboards.
Take a grocery list with you and stick to it! Don’t be distracted by
Eating out? Ask for less or refuse items if you know you won’t be able to finish it.
#2 Buy Ugly Food!
When you visit your supermarket or wet market, don’t forget to show the bruised apple or wonky carrot some love - they are edible and taste just as good. Even if the bunch of kailan has a torn leaf, it can still be part of your meal. What about food that’s near expiry? You can pop them into the freezer, but be aware that while frozen foods will stay edible when frozen, the longer it remains in this state the greater the likelihood that the taste and texture will be negatively impacted.
#3 Put Your Food Waste to Good Use!
Use your leftovers . Store them in the freezer or fridge, and turn them into tasty meals.
Got overripe fruit and wilting veggies? They’re great for smoothies.
#4 Use Your Food Waste for Cleaning
Orange and lemon peels can add a zing to your home cleaning routine.
Rub your used lemons and coarse salt over your wooden chopping board to get rid of smells and grime.
Used lemons are also a good way to rid your faucets of soapy grime. The acidity of the lemons will work their magic, and once you’re done, you can place the skins into the fridge to get rid of refrigerator smells. You’ve killed two birds with one stone!
Make your own household cleaner - soak your citrus peels in a glass jar of vinegar for two weeks, strain and pour into a spray bottle. Use it in the kitchen, bathroom and on windows. Please note that it should not be used on stone or varnished surfaces.
#5 Use Your Food Waste in the Garden
Depending on the type of plants you have in the garden, banana peels, egg shells and coffee grounds from your breakfast will be welcome in the soil. Egg shells provide calcium, while coffee grounds increase acidity to the soil. Banana peels will give your soil a potassium boost - don’t forget to cut them up into smaller pieces.
Start composting! Place your kitchen scraps into a composter, and make compost goodness for your plants. If you’re worried about smell and living in an apartment, then the Urban Composter will work for you. Read about it here.
Share your food waste reducing tips with us.
For more tips, NEA has a useful guide on how to Love Your Food.