Address by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Little India Goes Green Event on 27 February 2021
Ms. Joyce Kingsly, Founder and Chairperson, Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association Women's Wing
Mr. S. Mahenthiran, Honorary Secretary, Indian Restaurant Association Singapore
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning, everyone. I am glad that we are finally able to meet after this event was postponed last year, due to the COVID-19 situation.
2 Let me begin by thanking the Little India Shopkeeper and Heritage Association (LISHA) Women's Wing and Indian Restaurant Association Singapore (IRAS) for raising awareness on sustainability in Little India and kickstarting efforts to reduce food waste.
Food waste and climate change
3 According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted globally every year, amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes. That is enough to feed 2 billion people for a year! The problem with food waste is not just about the unequal distribution and accessibility of food, but also its environmental impact.
4 Energy, water and land are used for the production, packaging and transport of food. Food wastage means resources that were used to produce the food were invested in vain as well. Wastage depletes our earth's precious resources which could have been better used to produce other goods. The process of producing and transporting food also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 8 to 10 per cent of greenhouse gases emissions which contribute to climate change are caused by food waste.
5 Climate change is an existential threat to Singapore. As a low-lying island state, Singapore is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise. Climate change can drive more extreme weather patterns such as intense rainfall and heatwaves, which we are already observing. Climate change can also impact our access to essential resources such as food and water. For example, poor crop harvests arising from extreme weather conditions can disrupt our food supply.
Singapore Green Plan 2030
6 To address the impacts of climate change, the Government has, over the years, implemented a comprehensive suite of climate adaptation and mitigation measures. But we can and must do more. Earlier this month, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030. This is a whole-of-nation effort to advance Singapore's national agenda on sustainable development. Spearheaded by five ministries and supported by the whole of Government, the Green Plan sets out ambitious and concrete targets over the next 10 years, strengthening Singapore's commitments to achieve net zero emissions as soon as viable.
7 The Green Plan comprises five pillars — City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy and Resilient Future. It will influence all aspects of our lives, as we work together to make Singapore a greener and more liveable home. We also want to engage and empower the Public, Private and People sectors to co-create solutions for sustainability and realise the Green Plan together.
8 Under the Sustainable Living pillar, we aim to make it a way of life in Singapore to reduce our carbon footprint, keep our environment clean and conserve resources. Under our Zero Waste Masterplan, we are working to reduce the waste sent to our landfill by 30 per cent by 2030. We will build on and frontload our efforts over the next five years to achieve a 20 per cent reduction by 2026.
Role of businesses in building a Zero Waste Nation
9 Businesses have a critical role to play in this journey towards zero waste. I will share three broad areas where businesses can contribute to tackling food waste — through partnerships, technology and tapping on new business opportunities.
10 Firstly, forming partnerships and working as a community is a great way to reduce food waste while helping those in need. In Tampines and a few other neighbourhoods, residents have set up community fridges where anyone with excess but edible groceries can stock up the fridge for those in need. Establishing soup kitchens is another way to give food a new lease of life and contribute to society. I am happy to see Food Bank and Food for the Heart here at today's sharing session. They do good work in collecting food donations and passing them on to people who are in need.
11 Secondly, it is important to leverage technology for novel and efficient solutions in reducing food waste. For example, a food waste tracker developed by start-up Lumitics uses artificial intelligence to identify the quantity and category of food that is thrown away in restaurants. This helps businesses track their food waste and plan more accurately when ordering their ingredients. The use of technology to treat food waste, such as food waste digesters is another way to reduce waste. From 2024, owners and occupiers of commercial and industrial premises that generate large amounts of food waste will be required to segregate their food waste for treatment, either on-site or off-site. This includes, for instance, companies that manufacture food, restaurants or hotels. This requirement will ensure that food waste from large food waste generators is segregated and diverted for treatment or converted into useful products such as animal feed, compost or fertiliser.
12 Finally, new business opportunities can arise from combatting food waste. A social enterprise called UglyFood sells fresh produce which do not look pretty but are still edible. It even created its own recipes for fruit juices and cleaning agents made from these food items. By sourcing from supermarkets and importers, UglyFood taps on the food waste industry and built a business around it. At the same time, it salvages food that would otherwise have been thrown away.
13 With more than 80 food-related establishments in Little India today, the potential for businesses to reduce food waste is immense. I understand that some shops are already working with SG Food Rescue to salvage excess food that are used to stock up community fridges. To prevent wastage, many stores also sell products at a discounted price or give them away for free when the food is close to the expiry dates. These are commendable efforts, and I hope more will be inspired to do the same.
14 I would like to emphasise that the best way to reduce food waste is to avoid wasting food at the onset. The National Environment Agency and the Singapore Food Agency have worked with various industry stakeholders to publish food minimisation guidebooks for food retail establishments, supermarkets and food manufacturing establishments to reduce food waste across the supply chain. I encourage all of you to make good use of these resources, and take the first step towards food waste reduction, to achieve win-win outcomes for businesses, society and the environment.
15 Let me conclude. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, and compelled us to adapt to a new normal. This represents an opportunity to rethink our relationship with our environment, recalibrate how we can do things better and build back stronger. By working together, we can fight food waste and climate change, and transform Singapore into a city of green possibilities.
Thank you for the opportunity to share at this event. I look foward to more collaborations with LISHA and IRAS on our journey towards zero waste.