by Patricia Wee | May 12, 2020
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Singapore: aiming to become a "zero waste economy". Credit: Getty images

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) has launched a S$1.76 million (US$1.24 million) Food Waste Fund that will cover the capital cost of food waste treatment solutions for Singapore businesses.

Among its recipients is the Singapore Hotel Association. Said its executive director, Ms. Margaret Heng: "Being the collective voice of 160 members, the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) is heartened to be a beneficiary of the National Environment Agency's (NEA) new Food Waste Fund.

"The shorter disbursement period for this fund is a strong impetus for hotels to prioritise their food waste management initiatives, especially in today's business climate when financial prudence is a key consideration.
 
"Sustainability has become an important element of the hospitality business. Discerning travellers expect hotels to be mindful of environmental and social impact on all aspects of their operations. Since dining is an integral part of the hotel experience, NEA's commitment to responsible food waste management will strengthen Singapore's position as the leader in sustainable tourism."

The Food Waste Fund covers the capital cost of food waste treatment systems, accompanying equipment such as bin lifters and infrastructural improvements, and is capped at S$100,000 per applicant. The fund will be open for applications from 18 May 2020 to 28 February 2021.

NEA aims to steer Singapore towards a climate resilient future and help companies transition towards a "Zero Waste" economy amidst the current challenging economic conditions.

Organisations can tap on the fund to valorise food waste and convert homogeneous food waste into other valuable products such as animal feed. The cost of modifying processing lines or procuring food waste recycling equipment can be offset under the fund.

Other industry associations including Singapore Food Manufacturing Association and Singapore Manufacturing Federation are supportive of the Food Waste Fund and have indicated that they are keen to integrate food waste management practices into their businesses. They say that the shorter disbursement period of the food waste fund, as compared to existing funding schemes, is attractive as applicants will be able to claim the full grant within a six-month period.

From 2024 onwards, owners and operators of premises that generate large amounts of food waste will be required to segregate their food waste for treatment.

The Food Waste Fund is also aimed at encouraging and helping companies to adopt food waste segregation and treatment ahead of the mandatory requirements. NEA has also developed a new food waste segregation and treatment guidebook to help businesses practice segregation of food waste in their operations.

Reducing food waste
Food waste is one of the three priority waste streams under Singapore's recently launched Zero Waste Masterplan. Singapore is making good progress in reducing food waste overall, with the amount of food waste disposed of in 2019 continuing on a declining trajectory and being one of the lowest in recent years, while the food waste recycling rate increased to an all-time high of 18%.  

However, food waste still accounts for about 10% of the total waste generated in Singapore and its recycling rate remains relatively low.

The food that is not recycled is also disposed of at waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, and NEA claims this is not sustainable over the long-term. Besides the effort and resources that go into collecting and disposing of it, food waste can also contaminate recyclables and compromise recycling efforts.

Semakau Landfill, which is Singapore's only landfill, is projected to run out of space by 2035.