3 Ways to Reduce Your Waste

Thu, 25 Apr 2019

Global waste is expected to increase by 70% by 2050 due to rapid urbanisation and population growth, according to the World Bank report 2018. Singapore, being a small island with limited land space and growing population, requires a cost effective waste management system, to ensure optimal quality of life and community health.

Germany has the highest recycling rate in the world today. Producers are required to pay for the waste they produce, which has successfully increased recycling rates from 3% in 1991 to 56.1% in 2018.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) reported in 2018 that 70% of people in Singapore do not know what types of plastics they are able to recycle, resulting in plastic going into our landfills and incinerators instead. Clearly, awareness campaigns around recycling could help educated and spur action towards efficient household and consumer waste management.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has proposed pay as you throw campaign for residents, in order to limit household waste, and encourage the habit of recycling. ZeroWasteSG provides educational talks and programmes on minimise waste and highlight the importance of recycling. You know those blue recycling bins around your HDB? They are from ZeroWasteSG & NEA’s Let’s Recycle Together campaign, which encourages households to contribute our efforts for a better environment.

The 3Rs - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are the core principles for managing waste, and easy to adopt into every lifestyle. Read on to see how you can use the 3Rs and reduce your daily waste.

  1. Reduce - some ways you can minimise waste:

    1. Pack your lunch

It is estimated that around 500 years is needed to degrade styrofoam food boxes and cups. Imagine how many food containers and cups you could reduce each week by bringing your lunch from home. If you don’t have time to prepare your lunch, Revolv, a newly launched container rental service allows you to have your takeaway meals and drinks in stainless steel containers, by leaving a deposit for the containers. Your deposit is returned once you return the containers to their drop off point.

    1. Say no to single use plastic bags

Plastic bags can take around one thousand to degrade. Around 820 million plastic bags are used among Singaporean shoppers each year. The One Less Plastic campaign is an initiative involving four supermarket chains, which encourages shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. The aim is to reduce our nation’s plastic use by 25%. How many single use plastic bags do you use in a week?

    1. Reduce food waste

Most of the food waste occurs due to food spoilage. Keep your fridge clutter free by following the FIFO (First-In-First-Out) rule, to prevent food being hidden and forgotten at the back of your fridge. Take some time over your weekend to use any foods that have been in your fridge over a week. This small step not only reduces waste, it also gives you a happy belly and happy pocket!

2. Reuse

Pass on your pre-loved items

Give your pre-loved clothes, books, gadgets, etc, to those around you, or to charity. Carousell is a great platform for passing on or selling items that no longer spark joy for you.

Repair before rebuying 

Many household items are thrown out and replaced way before their lifespan is up. Consider repairing what you already have, before buying a new one.


Give objects a second life. Repurposing a pretty gift box into a stationary holder, an egg carton into a seedling planter, or a glass jam jar into a candle holder, are some ways you can reuse what you have, and avoid waste.

3. Recycle

  1. Turn your trash to cash

To encourage more recycling by making it convenient, recycling vending machines may be popping up in food courts, shopping malls, and office buildings in coming years. You can receive cash or coupons for food and drinks in exchange for your empty cans and plastic bottles.

b. Save paper, save our trees

Recycled paper uses less energy and resources to produce, hence more environmentally friendly compared to new paper products. Keep in mind that not all the paper is suitable for recycling. For example, napkins that have been used to clean food grease cannot be recycled. Reducing your use of paper products, such as tissues, napkins and wet wipes, is the best way to minimise waste.

C. Know your plastics

If you’re unsure what plastics can be recycled, have a look at this list from NEA that explains how to differentiate recyclable items. For example, plastic disposables, straw and plastic packaging with foil cannot be used recycled.

There are many ways for you to contribute to efficient waste management. We should take minimising waste seriously, to preserve this beautiful island we call home.

 Written by
 Alice Ong
 Pharmacist and formulator. Passionate about making a difference in healthcare and personal  wellness through nutrition.
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