SUNDAY, AUGUST 4
1pm – 3pm
City Green @ City Square Mall
Let’s gather as many people as possible,
dressed all in the bright orange T-shirts we’re handing out,
for the “FILL YOUR STOMACH, NOT THE LANDFILL” Picnic.
Just bring your own reusable containers and cutlery, get a takeaway meal (or bring lunch), for a no-disposables meal together! Anyone and everyone is invited to this family-friendly picnic.
We hope to create a fun, visual spectacle, surrounded by signboards with the “FILL YOUR STOMACH” tagline, to spread our green message to the public.
Let’s get Operation Zero Waste Dabao noticed.
Hope to see you there!
Facebook event here.
Part of Operation Zero Waste Dabao’s outreach to workplaces and schools is Box In Bag Day, on Aug 5, 2013.
The rather silly-sounding name belies the more meaningful cultural and behavioural shift at the core of BIB Day. On that Monday morning, we are encouraging the staff at participating workplaces to take one simple step: putting a lunchbox in their workbag to take to work.
It’s a chance to start the practice of stowing a lunchbox at the office for all those dabao moments we can’t always foresee, thereby reducing food packaging wastage and cultivating a mentality of reuse rather than use-and-throw. It’s also a fun chance for staff bonding!
These are posters that can be used in staff-wide emailers for BIB Day:
…as well as a sample form that can be used to RSVP to BIB Day:
One of the workplaces partnering up with Operation Zero Waste Dabao is the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)! Their Pledge Wall is under construction, but here’s a quick glimpse of the work in progress :).
Staff members will get to write their names and personal pledges on the glass panel framing the AWARE meeting room. There will also be a mini display on ecofeminism next to the Pledge Wall. All of this is in conjunction with AWARE’s commitment to use less disposable foodware, and more eco-friendly disposables options when disposable foodware is necessary, during Operation Zero Waste Dabao.
Thanks AWARE, and all other participating organisations! We hope more workplaces will join us in taking this ridiculously easy first step in cultivating a life-long habit of reuse.
Announcing our participating outlets:
Food For Thought @ Singapore Botanic Gardens
Food Republic @ City Square Mall
Frunatic @ The Star Vista
Tian Yuan Healthy Vegetarian Food Paradise 田园健康素食品
Veggie Hub 绿色地带
Supporters and sponsors:
So proud to be in this with you all! Thank you so much for joining the movement.
This post is so long overdue! It was all the way back on June 27th that I tagged along with the Youth Environment Envoys (YEEs) and other school groups on their field trip to the NEA’s ENVision Gallery, Tuas Incineration Plant and Marina Barrage.
The ENVision Gallery is a “one-stop showcase of Singapore’s environmental story” located on level 3 of the Environment Building, 40 Scotts Road. MEWR (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources) calls it “a journey through the five different zones covering the key environmental topics – air, land, water, energy, and public health.” It’s a fun and interactive exhibition that makes the complex issues MEWR handles very easy for the layperson to understand. It’s open year-round from 9am to 6pm on weekdays, for free, and guided tours are available for school groups on request (email@example.com).
Here’s an excerpt from a Straits Times article in today’s Home section, page B4 (my emphasis added):
The lack of public participation in recycling is also a problem with household waste like plastic and food often being incinerated and going to landfill.
Each year, 803,400 tonnes of plastic waste is generated, making it fourth among the top five waste streams, after ferrous metals, construction debris and paper or cardboard, which all have higher recycling rates. Just 10 per cent of plastic is recycled, a rate that has stayed the same since 2001.
“One-third of the waste we discard at home is packaging waste,” Dr Balakrishnan noted. However the 128 companies and groups that have signed the Singapore Packaging Agreement since 2007 have reduced their packaging waste by 14,900 tonnes.
The voluntary agreement aims to get producers to reduce the material used in product packaging and recycle packaging waste.
Dr Balakrishnan also presented the 3R Packaging Awards to 16 firms for outstanding efforts in doing this. Winners included Nestle Singapore, which cut packaging from its Yang Sheng Le herbal soups and Milo powdered drink mixes, and LHT Holdings, which makes pallets, packaging and doors from horticultural and industrial wood waste.
LHT began using recycled material in the late 1990s, after then Environment Minister Yeo Cheow Tong announced that fees for waste incineration would rise. Its managing director Neo Koon Boo said: “Our target is zero waste.”
Article by Grace Chua, published Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I had the chance to get an inside look at the Tuas Incineration Plant last Thursday! It was fascinating! Here’s a sneak peak before I post more about it later:
Anyway! On to plastics. I’m definitely not an authority on this, but I’ve done a little secondary research around the web to find out more about plastic waste for the purpose of this project. Here’s a little of what I’ve found out.
What happens to Singapore’s plastic waste*?
*Noting that waste is not waste unless it is wasted! We can give plastic a new lease of life by recycling it :).
According to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources’ Key Environmental Statistics 2012, 730,000 tonnes of plastic waste was generated in 2010, with a recycling rate of just 11% (only 2% up from 2008). Plastic that is not recovered for recycling gets incinerated and landfilled.
How does plastic waste get recycled?
Paraphrasing Zero Waste SG’s great guide to recycling plastic,
Plastic waste can be divided into pre-consumer and post-consumer plastic waste.
Pre-consumer: Plastic scraps generated by companies during the manufacturing of products. These plastics are usually easier to recycle as they are clean and homogeneous.
Post-consumer: Generated by consumers after use. They are more difficult to collect, easily contaminated with food, and not homogeneous.
Whether pre- or post-consumer, once collected, plastic waste is separated into seven categories developed by the US Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI):
1. PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – Used for water bottles, soft drink and cooking oil bottles, and meal trays.
2. HDPE (High density polyethylene) – Used for milk and detergent bottles.
3. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) – Used for plastic pipes, food trays, shrink wrap, and bottles.
4. LDPE (Low density polyethylene) – Used for plastic bags and bin liners.
5. PP (Polypropylene) – Used for bottle caps, margarine tubs, and meal trays.
6. PS (Polystyrene) – Used for food containers, egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, and protective packaging for electronic goods.
7. OTHER – Includes any other plastic that does not fall into the above categories.
After sorting, plastic waste is baled and exported overseas for recycling. There are also plastic recycling companies in Singapore that sort and process plastic waste into small pellets to be used as feedstock for making plastic products.
Why should we reduce and recycle our plastic waste?
1. It is estimated that 4% of the world’s annual oil production is used as feedstock for plastics production.
2. It is estimated that an additional 3-4% of the world’s annual oil production is used for the manufacturing of plastics.
3. When incinerated, plastics release CO2 and potentially toxic gases such as dioxins.
4. Plastics are non-biodegradable and take hundreds of years to break down. When they are landfilled, they take up valuable landfill space that Singapore just doesn’t have.
What are bio-plastics?
Bio-plastics are an alternative to conventional plastics, derived from renewable biomass sources, such as agricultural by-products and corn starch.
It is argued that the production and use of bio-plastics are more sustainable activities than the production and use of conventional plastics because bio-plastics use less petrol-based feedstock and emit less CO2 and no/fewer toxic gases when incinerated.
It’s important to ask how much non-renewable energy and water goes into powering farm machinery, irrigating farms, producing pesticides and fertilizers, and transporting and processing crops. Only then can a more accurate comparison between conventional plastics and bio-plastics be done. (I’m personally a bigger fan of the use of agricultural by-products because it seems to avoid these issues.)
There are different types of bio-plastics, each with their own pros and cons. As I mentioned, some of them make use of agricultural by-products, whilst others use crops grown for the production of bio-plastics. Some are made purely from biomass sources (polylactic acid, PLA), whilst others are a mixture of biomass and conventional plastic (such as polypropylene, PP). Certain bio-plastics are biodegradable and compostable, others are only biodegradable, and some are neither. The recycling of bio-plastics is in its infancy – it can only really take off when the necessary recycling infrastructure is put in place. In Singapore, bio-plastics cannot yet be recycled.
A good look into all these factors is needed before we categorically declare all bio-plastics as the Next Green Thing. We need to look at life cycle assessments that take into account comprehensive cradle-to-grave energy/water/land usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and toxic waste emissions. An example is this University of California, Santa Barbara study that assesses the life cycles of plastic yogurt containers made of polystyrene (PS) versus plastic yogurt containers made of PLA. Its major finding is that the PLA containers release 48% less carbon than PS ones, providing the basis for Stonyfield Farm’s decision to switch over to PLA yogurt containers.
So what’s the deal with biodegradability and compostability?
First, a distinction should be made between the two: biodegradability simply refers to the ability to be consumed by microorganisms and decomposed back down into compounds found in nature, whilst compostability refers to the ability to biodegrade quickly in a composting pile. A composting facility optimizes surrounding conditions, i.e. humidity, temperature and lighting, so that waste can be efficiently converted into humus, which can then be used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for farming.
Singapore incinerates all waste that is not recycled, and landfills the remaining ashes. There are no large-scale composting facilities in Singapore* (since the recent closing down of IUT Global), though some great groups have taken it upon themselves to start their own compost piles (big applause!). As such, I’ve been asked a number of times if biodegradable and compostable food packaging products are even relevant here.
I believe they are, but not because of those properties in particular. Olive Green’s cornware, for example, may be 100% biodegradable, but it is because it uses less petrol-based feedstock (it’s 90% biomass-based, and 10% plastic) and releases less CO2 and no toxic gases when incinerated, that I consider it a promising alternative to conventional pure plastic.
*At the Tuas Incineration Plant, I asked the operations engineer leading the tour whether another food waste-to-energy recycling plant might be in the works for the future. He said there might be plans for one – I certainly hope so! I’ve had the chance to eat apples grown in an orchard that uses the compost collected from my house at Vassar, and I hope to one day do something similar in Singapore :).