Recycling Rate Upped By Food Manufacturers In Singapore

Friday, April 13th, 2018 | 1363 Views

Recent statistics from Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) indicated a two percent increase over a one-year period in the amount of food waste recycled, with food manufacturers contributing a major part.

Singapore generated a total of 791,000 tonnes of food waste in 2016, with 679,900 tonnes disposed of. The remaining 111,100 tonnes were recycled, giving the country a 14 percent recycling rate for the year.

With the rise to 809,800 tonnes of food waste generated in 2017, the amount which was disposed of instead fell to 676,800 tonnes—signifying a 16 percent recycling rate.

NEA attributed the substantial growth in recycling rate to food manufacturers. According to an NEA spokesperson, the spike in food waste recycling rate was specifically associated with spent soy beans and grains from food manufacturing processes being turned into animal feed.

It was also added that the more extensive use of on-site food digesters, and food waste segregation at more locations island-wide for treatment at the Public Utilities Board’s co-digestion demonstration facility (at the Ulu Pandan Reclamation Plant), gave rise to the increase in food recycling rate.

Despite an increase in total food waste generated, the proportion of which to the total waste generated in Singapore fell from 10 percent in 2016 to less than nine percent in 2017.

However, there is no room for complacency among Singaporeans. NEA cautions about the approximately 45 percent hike in food waste generated over the last decade, and forecasts that the population growth and economic activities will account for further food wastage should the nation lack appropriate measures to mitigate it.

As food industry stakeholders step forward to play their part in the food recycling effort, the “Food Waste Minimisation Guidebook for Food Manufacturing Establishments” was launched as part of a collaboration between NEA and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

The guidebook is aimed at informing food manufacturers on how to curb food wastage and to treat and recycle food waste, with additional information supplemented by NEA’s website. Food retail companies are urged to get consumers involved in this effort, and also to donate their surplus food to distribution organisations like The Food Bank Singapore.

Food-related social initiatives in the form of mobile applications and web platforms such as “Treatsure” and “treedot” are aimed at reducing food wastage through discounted food prices as the food products get close to their expiry dates.

In Japan’s context, the Tokyo metropolitan government ran the Ecobuy mobile application, designed by the country’s largest mobile carrier NTT Docomo Incorporated. This platform awards consumers with points transferable into purchase rebates (valid at both Docomo and the Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten) as they buy items nearing their best-by dates at participating supermarkets.

Back in Singapore, Edwin Seah, head of communications at Food Industry Asia, cited similar efforts at reducing food wastage by major food companies like Marina Bay Sands and Neo Catering where on-site composting machines have been installed on the companies’ accord.

Members of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation have also commented on potential new standards for a code of practice that will govern food processing and manufacturing establishments for their food waste management. Discussions are underway between the Food Standards Committee (part of the industry-led Singapore Standards Council and Standards Development Organisations) and SPRING Singapore.

Playing their part to step up food waste reduction, academics and scientists have formulated techniques to convert by-products of food manufacturing into ingredients or products in their own rights.

Headed by Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, separate research teams from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the Department of Chemistry, National University of Singapore, have successfully biotransformed okara and tofu whey (both soy bean residues from the production of soy milk and tofu) into a nutritious food ingredient and sachi—the world’s first alcoholic beverage, respectively.

In Singapore, a total of 7.7 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in 2017, in comparison to the 7.81 million tonnes the previous year. Despite this, the total amount of recycled waste also dropped to 4.72 million tonnes from 4.77 million tonnes over the two years—signifying the same overall recycling rate of 61 percent.

Both non-domestic and domestic recycling rates stood unchanged at 76 percent and 21 percent respectively over the 2016 to 2017 period, despite government efforts urging businesses and citizens to recycle more.

A challenge posed to the recycling effort lies in the improper disposal of food waste, as it contaminates other recyclable materials to render them inappropriate for recycling.

Regarding the issue, NEA stated the unsustainability at the current rate of waste disposal—requiring a new waste-to-energy plant every seven to 10 years and a new landfill every 35 years, given Singapore’s land scarcity.