Singapore’s First Guide For Rating F&B Retailers On Their Efforts To Reduce Plastic Disposables

October 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Insights, News

Zero Waste SG has launched the BYO Singapore Guide 2018 to encourage food and beverage (F&B) retailers to take more action in reducing plastic disposables. This guide provides a rating of 100 popular F&B retailers in Singapore based on their efforts to reduce single-use plastic disposables, encourage a Bring Your Own (BYO) culture among customers, and list recommendations for them to do more.

Single-use plastic disposables pose a serious environmental problem around the world because plastics are made from non-renewable fossil fuel resources, do not break down easily in nature, could release toxic chemicals under certain conditions, and contribute to marine litter that affects wildlife, human health and the environment. Plastic waste is the most common type of waste disposed of at the incineration plants in Singapore, and the burning of plastics produces greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.

Several countries and cities have taken steps to reduce or phase out plastic disposables. In Singapore, there are currently no regulations prohibiting or reducing the use of plastic disposables, especially in the F&B industry, where retailers use a significant amount of single-use plastic disposables. Zero Waste SG believes that it is time for F&B retailers in Singapore to be more serious and take bold actions to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic disposables.

Therefore, Zero Waste SG has conducted a public audit of 100 popular retailers to assess the extent of their efforts to reduce the use of single-use disposables and published the rating results in the BYO Singapore Guide 2018. Through the guide, Zero Waste SG hopes to urge the F&B retailers to assess whether they are ahead or behind their peers, and to take the appropriate and right actions to reduce the consumption of plastic disposables.

The retailers are selected from different categories such as coffee and tea cafes, bakeries, restaurants, tea and juice kiosks, food kiosks, and fast food restaurants. The audits were completed over 2 months from mid-Jul to mid-Sep 2018 by 53 auditors, who are mostly volunteers and also staff of Zero Waste SG. For each retailer, 3 audits at different outlets were randomly conducted in order for the data collected to be more representative, and the average audit result was chosen from the 3 audit results. All the audits were “mystery shopper” audits, where the identity of the auditor was not revealed to the retail staff, so as to ensure that the audit of the experience at the retail outlet is real.

A set of 12 “Yes/No” audit questions were used. Points are awarded only for “Yes” answers to the questions, with some questions being allocated more points as they reflect greater commitment by the retailer to reduce single-use disposables, such as charging a fee for the disposables, or providing incentives if customers bring their own reusable. The points are added up and each retailer was rated from 1 to 3 stars depending on the total points achieved. The audit results show the following:

  • 3-Star Retailers: 3
  • 2-Star Retailers: 14
  • 1-Star Retailers: 83

Out of the 100 retailers, only 3 retailers were able to achieve the highest rating of 3 stars. They are Plain Vanilla Bakery, Common Man Coffee Roasters. and SaladStop!. These 3-star retailers should be commended for their holistic efforts in implementing schemes to influence consumer behaviour, altering their operations to reduce single-use disposables, and educating their staff to encourage and welcome a BYO culture.

Ms Stella Cochrane, Communications and Events Executive of Common Man Coffee Roasters, said, “As a business, Common Man Coffee Roasters aims to champion coffee knowledge, appreciation and sustainable practices throughout South-East Asia. This ethos runs from our relationships with coffee farmers through to our wholesale and cafe suppliers, and also our café customers. As such, we see it as our responsibility to help tackle the global plastic pollution problem we are facing in any ways that we can. We have bigger plans for the future but by taking our current small steps to change habits and increase awareness about the issue we hope to help our customers lead a more sustainable life whilst still enjoying our brunches and brews!”

Ms Katherine Braha Desbaillets, Director of SaladStop!, said, “We believe that environmental friendliness is a crucial responsibility and must be an integral component of our operational excellence. Our quest to improve SaladStop!’s sustainability begins with our commitment to take responsibility and reduce our environmental footprint. Our report for 2018 establishes the five key goals we’ve set for the future: greener packaging, sustainable sourcing, water conservation, efficient illumination and cleaner cleaning.”

14 retailers were able to achieve the second highest rating of 2 stars. Most of them had an incentive or disincentive scheme, and also had some initiatives to nudge the customers in reducing plastic disposables or replaced plastic disposables with other sustainable alternatives. The majority of the retailers audited (83 retailers) achieved the low rating of 1 star. This meant that most F&B retailers are not taking enough action to reduce single-use plastic disposables and there is an opportunity for them to catch up with their peers who have achieved 3 or 2-star rating.

An encouraging result from the audits was that 94 out of 100 retailers accepted BYO requests from customers. This shows that the majority of F&B retailers are open to the idea of consumers using their own reusable cup, container and bag during purchase.

Ms Pek Hai Lin, Manager of Zero Waste SG, said, “We believe that it is time for F&B retailers in Singapore to place greater priority in taking bold actions to reduce their use of plastic disposables. More consumers are demanding that retailers play a stronger role in tackling the use of plastic disposables. Retailers can improve customer and brand loyalty by showing that they care for the environment and being responsible to our future generations in conserving non-renewable resources.”

F&B retailers who hope to achieve a higher rating can follow these recommendations that were distilled from the efforts of 3-star retailers: i) identify opportunities to track, reduce and replace plastic disposables; ii) start a plastic reduction and BYO scheme to educate consumers and train staff; and iii) provide incentives or disincentives to encourage customers to BYO. Zero Waste SG looks forward to working closely with the retailers to reduce plastic disposables in Singapore, and achieve a truly Zero Waste Nation.

Download the BYO Singapore Guide 2018 at http://www.zerowastesg.com/byorating/

#2 Singaporean response to a plastic bag charge

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Insights

#2 Singaporean response to a plastic bag charge:

“Wah lau eh, everything also Pay and Pay! Where got money to pay for plastic bags, we very poor thing one… Free bags always free what so should be free forever, why must we pay?

Our response:

Sayang poor thing… we understand that our living costs in Singapore are increasing, sometimes very jialat… but for the sake of our children, grandchildren and great great great grandchildren, and for our clean and green environment, we should do the right thing! (cue: everybody hold hands and sing “this is home truly, where I know I must be…”)

Actually come on lah, we Singaporeans should know that there is nothing free in life… there are environmental and health costs to “free” bags. The problem of excessive usage and wastage of plastic bags in Singapore contributes to the wasting of non-renewable oil resources, generation of carbon dioxide emissions from incineration, littering of bags which could become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, posing harm to the marine lives when the bags ends up in the waterways and sea, and affecting our own health when plastics break down into microplastics and enter our food chain.

We should not let our children, grandchildren and great great great grandchildren pay for these environmental and health costs in the future so that we can enjoy our “free” plastic bags now. Sekali your children next time ask why you pollute our environment by die die wanting free plastic bags, how you explain? How, huh how?

We hope to share that the plastic bag charge would be affordable for most households… we never bluff you! Here’s the maths… abit cheem but bear with us:

Assuming residents bag their waste and throw it into the rubbish chute once every day and with the occasional disposal, each household would need about 10 bags a week or 520 bags a year. If a typical household takes 520 bags a year from the supermarkets and reuse them for bagging waste, and if there is a 10 cents charge on each plastic bag, it would cost a household $52 a year.

The annual cost of the plastic bags ($52) as a percentage of annual household income in 2015 for different types of housing ranges from 0.06-0.35%, which means that paying for the plastic bags would incur a cost which is still affordable to most households.

Also, you could take and pay for less plastic bags if you use the plastic bags that are exempted from the charge or other plastic packaging to bag your waste at home (see previous response at http://www.zerowastesg.com/2017/09/28/1-singaporean-response-to-a-plastic-bag-charge/). So the actual number of plastic bags that you pay for would be much less!

For lower income households, to further minimise the costs of plastic bags, the private sector could help to subsidise the costs of the plastic bags for households in HDB 1- and 2-room flats, or free reusable bags could be given to these households so that they can use them for shopping. The reusable bags could be donated from the public or from the private sector.

So, we should support the plastic bag charge as it would be affordable to most households and is the right thing to do to protect our environment, our health and the future of our children, grandchildren and great great great grandchildren. Steady lah!

#1 Singaporean response to a plastic bag charge

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Insights

#1 Singaporean response to a plastic bag charge:

“Die lah! No more free bags to bag my waste to throw in the rubbish chute… my flat is going to stink and pests will crawl all over… it’s the end of the world!”

Our response:

Relac lah, bro and sis… the plastic bag charge policy can be designed such that certain bags are exempted from the charge for hygiene and safety reasons… which means you still have some FREE bags although not as many compared to the past. Heng ah, you can still use these free bags to bag your waste!

In fact, some countries that have implemented a plastic bag charge have exempted these bags from the charge:

  • Bags used for carrying food without packaging
  • Bags used for carrying frozen or chilled food
  • Bags used for carrying food in non-airtight or unsealed packaging
  • Bags used for carrying prescription medicines

You can also use the plastic packaging that comes with other food or products for bagging your waste, such as the outer bulk packaging for coffee sachets, bread bag packaging, etc. As a famous contractor used to say, “Use your brain” and be creative.

Also remember that the smell and pest problems are caused by food waste, so we should bag food waste using the limited plastic bags (that we still get for free) or other plastic packaging. All other items that are recyclable such as clean and dry paper, plastic bottles, metal cans and glass bottles should be recycled via the recycling bins in your estate and not disposed in the chute. Other non-food and non-hazardous items that are not recyclable can be thrown into the chute without bagging.

If you have too much waste in your house that you don’t have enough bags to bag your waste, your first concern should not be whether you have enough bags, but why you generate so much waste and if you could reduce the waste generated.

So to double confirm, remember these 3 steps:

  1. Bring your own reusable bags when shopping.
  2. Use the plastic bags that are exempted from the charge or other plastic packaging to bag your waste at home.
  3. If you really run out of plastic bags for bagging waste, take just enough plastic bags when shopping and pay for them.

plastic bag

Recommendation Paper on the Implementation of a Plastic Bag Charge in Singapore

September 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Insights

Recommendation Paper on the Implementation of a Plastic Bag Charge in SingaporeIn June 2016, we published our Position Paper on the Reduction of Single-Use Plastic Disposables in Singapore, to urge the government and businesses to develop concrete plans and take bold actions to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic disposables.

As a follow-up to our Position Paper and to focus specifically on the problem of excessive usage and wastage of single-use plastic bags in Singapore, Zero Waste SG recently conducted a public survey on a plastic bag charge. The survey would help us to understand the opinion of supermarket shoppers on a charge for plastic bags and whether they are ready for a plastic bag charge in the future.

This recommendation paper shows the results of the survey and recommends that the government introduce a mandatory plastic bag charge scheme to reduce the excessive usage and wastage of single-use plastic bags and to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags.

Download Recommendation Paper on the Implementation of a Plastic Bag Charge in Singapore (1798 downloads )

Food waste recycling trial at hawker centres and markets

January 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Insights

Food waste recycling trial - Ang Mo Kio 1

A two-year on-site food waste recycling trial at Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market and Tiong Bahru Market was launched by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday, to test the economic viability and operational feasibility of two different types of on-site food waste recycling systems. The systems are leased by NEA from two vendors – Eco Wiz (SG) and VRM Operations (Singapore), and the vendors would also be in-charge of maintaining the systems. The pilot trial is expected to conclude in Dec 2017.

Zero Waste SG visited the 2 trial markets for the launch, which include both hawker centres and wet markets. Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market (with 218 stalls) generates about two tonnes of food waste per day, while Tiong Bahru Market (with 342 stalls) generates about three tonnes of food waste per day. Most of the food waste are generated from market slab stalls and table cleaning operations. The food waste recycling systems could reduce up to 80% of the total waste generated from both locations. Read more

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