'Learn how to cut food waste the British way'

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been urged to follow the example of Britain, which has managed to slash its food waste by a fifth.

Dr Mervyn Jones of Britain's Waste and Resources Action Programme or Wrap - a government-funded not-for-profit group that looks at ways to reduce waste - said companies can be encouraged to trim food and packaging waste if it makes good business sense.

The head of Wrap's collaborative programmes told The Straits Times at the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore yesterday that although Singapore's conditions differ from Britain's, "a lot of the learning and methodology is already there".

For instance, Wrap has explored why consumers end up throwing out food - such as due to it going off because of improper storage - and totted up how much carbon a wine producer could save by using thinner glass.

It also demonstrated that food packaging made from recycled content is safe for food.

Dr Jones added that if recyclable material is not separated before incineration, it is akin to "taking a wodge of Singapore dollars and burning it".

He and other experts from Europe and Asia discussed the challenges of managing food waste, at the Marina Bay Sands conference yesterday.

For instance, Hong Kong is building two organic waste facilities that together will turn up to 600 tonnes of waste a day into biogas and compost.

But they will be able to handle only a small fraction of the 9,000 tonnes of food waste Hong Kong generates each day.

Dr Thomas Tang, sustainability director at environmental consultancy Aecom, said that food and other waste collected at home take up precious space in Hong Kong's and Singapore's small high-rise flats.

"You need a compact system but also a system where the waste is collected regularly," he added. "With any waste - cans, paper, plastics - you may have good intentions but you run out of space."

Dr Jones suggested separating wet waste from dry, instead of dividing dry materials into paper, plastic and so on.

But for food waste recycling to really make business sense, a market for the resulting compost has to be found, Dr Tang said - perhaps in green roofs or vertical gardens. "We've not really addressed where the true secondary market is," he added.