2019 survey finds more consumers taking positive steps to reduce food wastage through better shopping, cooking, eating and catering habits
Singapore, 23 December 2019 – A 2019 survey commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to track the sentiments of Singapore residents regarding food waste has found that in general, the public’s shopping, cooking, eating and catering habits have become more environmentally conscious. The findings are encouraging, and point to a growing awareness and action on food waste reduction by the various stakeholders.
2019 Consumer Survey on Food Wastage
2 NEA commissioned the survey, conducted from March to April 2019, to better understand the perceptions, behaviours and attitudes of consumers towards food waste. The 2019 survey followed a similar survey conducted in 2015, and involved face-to-face interviews with 1,000 randomly selected household representatives.
3 Compared to the 2015 baseline, there were more respondents in 2019 who are trying to use leftover ingredients in the fridge, have no leftovers on their plates when eating out, and are packing unfinished food home when dining out. In addition, about 6 in 10 of those experienced in catering food would cater for only the exact or fewer number of expected guests instead of over-catering. Interestingly, some households (3 per cent) are composting their food waste.
4 These findings are encouraging, but the survey also highlighted areas for improvement. For example, about a quarter of respondents said they buy more than they need when grocery shopping. The main reason cited was the concern that household members should have more than enough to eat.
5 Those surveyed said they would be motivated not to waste food if it helped their families save money and protect the environment. Many thought that more information, such as how to store food and ingredients to make them last longer and how to share excess food, could help them reduce food wastage. They also said they would waste less food if they had the option to order smaller portions at eating establishments. Please refer to the Annex for more details.
Commendable ground-up efforts
6 In 2018, 763,100 tonnes of food waste were generated, a drop from 809,800 tonnes in 2017. The concerted efforts of various segments of society and the growing ground-up movement to reduce food waste could have contributed to the reduction in the food waste generated.
7 For example, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and interest groups have been actively organising food waste reduction activities. Food from the Heart (FFTH) has been redistributing surplus food to the underprivileged in Singapore through close to 200 food distribution points, and organising annual Clean Plate Campaigns for participating schools. There are also several interest groups, such as Foodscape Collective, that are building on this momentum to deal with food waste by encouraging people to have a better appreciation of food, and to turn food scraps into compost.
8 “The Food Bank Singapore is planning to step up our Cooked Food Rescue programme, and also start creating the Food Bank’s own Bento Meals, made from various types of excess foods, that will be distributed to the needy. Other than offering better tasting and interesting meal options for those in need, we also plan to extend the shelf life of these meals by blast freezing and dispensing them via vending machines, to allow those in need to get a hot meal 24-7. Through these efforts, we hope to further cut down on food wastage, and bring a circular economy approach to food rescue and distribution,” said Ms Nichol Ng, Chief Food Officer of The Food Bank Singapore.
9 In early 2019, NEA launched a Towards Zero Waste Grant to support more of such ground-up initiatives. About 270 events and projects, including about 130 activities that helped to raise awareness of and drive action to reduce food waste, have been supported through the Grant. One innovative example is a mobile application by treatsure, a social impact business, to connect businesses with surplus food to consumers.
10 NEA is also engaging businesses and schools to support ground-up initiatives. Chongzheng Pri School has been actively advocating ways to reduce food waste among their students and community. Some of their initiatives include having primary school students teach pre-schoolers about food waste and guiding them in hands-on food waste composting activities, and setting up educational booths at Our Tampines Hub. The school has reached out to more than 140 kindergarten pupils, 90 parents and 300 members of the public through their initiatives.
11 This year’s Clean and Green Carnivals held all over Singapore featured various waste reduction workshops, including vermicomposting and aerobic composting workshops. Earlier this year, NEA launched a campaign involving 25 hawker centres, supermarkets, schools and Institutes of Higher Learning, to engage consumers at points-of-consumption on food waste reduction tips.
12 In August this year, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) published a report on food loss in Singapore, which highlighted that an estimated 342,000 tonnes of food is lost from farm to market here each year. It is therefore equally important for industry to play a part in minimising food waste. For instance, meat processing and distributing company OJJ Foods Pte Ltd offers their meat products in various packaging sizes to their retail customers and supermarkets, so that shoppers can make purchases based on their needs.
Reducing food waste together this festive season
13 This festive season, NEA is encouraging the public to buy, order and cook just enough. Simple tips to follow include:
i. Avoid preparing more food than needed for gatherings. It is generally safe to cater 10 to 15 per cent less than required for the number of guests expected.
ii. Carbohydrate items are the most commonly wasted dishes. Opt for less rice or noodles when preparing food for gatherings.
iii. Avoid perishable items as gifts.
iv. Plan a use-it-up meal for leftover food.
14 Members of the public can download NEA’s handy guide at cgs.gov.sg/programmes/food-waste-reduction-programme for more useful tips on reducing food waste and interesting recipes that make use of leftovers. Businesses are also encouraged to implement food waste minimisation practices. For example, food and beverage operators can offer smaller portion sizes, and supermarkets can sell expiring food at lower prices, or donate them to the needy. Food business operators are encouraged to download NEA’s food waste minimisation guidebooks developed for food retail establishments, food manufacturing establishments and supermarkets at www.nea.gov.sg/food-waste-management.
15 Moving forward, NEA will be launching the next phase of our food waste reduction campaign in 2020. NEA will also continue to organise outreach activities, such as roadshows and cooking demonstrations at hawker centres, shopping malls and community events, to promote food waste reduction so as to ramp up public action.
16 As we come together to enjoy the company of our friends and family this festive season, NEA is urging everyone to continue the momentum of the collective effort to say no to food waste. This will help in our fight against climate change by conserving resources, reducing waste sent for incineration and extending the lifespan of our only landfill.
17 Parties interested in doing their part to fight food waste can visit the NEA Food Waste Management webpage for more information on areas of collaboration, or contact NEA for more information.
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For more information, please contact us at 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632) or submit your enquiries electronically via the Online Feedback Form or myENV mobile application.