Stomaching the reality – Are we really making a change?

Previously, we discussed the various initiatives implemented in Singapore currently, and also briefly evaluated the effectiveness of it. Let us take a deeper look into the impacts of the initiatives and analyse them further.

Government Initiatives

Apart from recently launching the pilot programme for food waste recycling, Singapore’s government has taken a backseat when it comes to food waste. Understandably, this policy has a huge potential to help recycle up to 80% of food waste in hawker centers, generating water for cleaning and taking  a huge step towards sustainability. However, the government’s potential to do more is not yet realised. They should take waste management (including but not limited to food waste) more seriously. In the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, it not only groups food waste management under general waste management, showing a lack of emphasis and dedication to even separate the both from each other, they also aim to arbitrarily increase recycling to 70%, but they fail to acknowledge the importance of food waste management in overall waste management.

A significant proportion of recyclables comes from some sort of food packaging. As reported by Boh (2016), she draws the connection between poor food waste management and increased difficulty in recycling. Food waste that is not properly dealt with has a higher tendency to end up with the recyclables, either out of ease, or feeble attempts to recycle unclean containers. This could also be due to poor education, resulting in people attempting to recycle soiled diapers, tissue paper and oil stained paper packaging. As such, workers have to don the arduous task of manually sorting out the recyclables from the non-recyclables, which more often than not, is smelly and unpleasant. This generates larger administrative costs and hassle, placing a larger deterrent on recycling all together.

Actually, the government has also been providing some sort of funding programme for firms who are looking to be energy efficient and sustainable, or innovate new technology for increased sustainability. However, the incentive implies the gentle approach the government has towards sustainable development on a whole. In order to push Singapore towards a more sustainable future, the government should establish a more serious and firm approach towards this matter.

Ground-Up Initiatives

As discussed previously, Singapore is home to many (rather) effective ground-up initiatives such as “Save Food, Cut Waste” and “ZeroWasteSG”. These measures have been quite successful in educating the public, presenting the unpalatable information in bite size chunks that are easy to digest. They have also been able to garner sufficient clout to hold workshops and provide tips and suggestions on how to reduce food waste and manage it better. However, because of its non-governmental position, its sphere of influence is only able to go so far. Based on the information available, it seems that these initiatives do not receive any sort of funding from the government, which also greatly limits the potential for growth and impact of the such efforts. Furthermore, without explicit government support, there are significant amount of barriers that these organisations face in spreading the information. For instance, it would take a lot more effort to position themselves in and provide information to areas that really matter, like food retail outlets and centres, as well as education hubs like primary and secondary schools. In addition, without government backing, the reach of such programmes are severely limited, that is only to those who are willing to listen and interested in change.

For a swift and significant change to occur over time, both bottom-up and top-down efforts need to employed simultaneously. Through this synergistic effect, Singapore can look towards a more “active and gracious community” and a “vibrant and sustainable city”.

 

References:

Boh, Samantha. “Food Waste Raises a Stink for Recycling.” The Straits Times. N.p., 20 May 2016. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015. (2015). Retrieved September 16, 2016, from http://www.mewr.gov.sg/ssb/

Tay, E. (2015, February 16). 2015 Guide to Singapore Government Funding and Incentives for the Environment. Retrieved September 16, 2016, from http://www.greenfuture.sg/2015/02/16/2015-guide-to-singapore-government-funding-and-incentives-for-the-environment/

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