Singapore retailers join food waste action plan

High profile Singapore retailers have signed up to a government led program aimed at reducing food wastage.

Various food retail businesses will partner with the National Environment Agency (NEA)  to raise greater awareness among consumers on how they can reduce food wastage. The retailers include Cold Storage, Giant, Prime, Sheng Siong, NTUC FairPrice and Subway.

TheNEA says the retailers have committed to displaying collateral materials, such as posters and table-top stickers, to remind and encourage consumers not to waste food.

A survey commissioned by the NEA and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has revealed that saving money is the biggest motivation that will drive Singapore consumers to reduce food wastage, while concern for the environment came a close second.

The survey was commissioned to better understand the main reasons behind food wastage in households and identify triggers for change. After the survey was conducted, a focus group discussion was also carried out in July, to gain further insights into the underlying perceptions, attitudes and habits of Singapore consumers with regard to food wastage.

Encouragingly, the survey revealed that eight out of 10 Singapore consumers feel bothered when uneaten food is thrown away. Most respondents said that they avoid wasting food if possible in their preparation of meals at home, eating out or catering of food.

However, while respondents were concerned about wasting food, they were generally unwilling to compromise on freshness and absence of defects on food. Expired food, mouldy food and food that looked, smelled or tasted bad were the top three reasons given for throwing food away.

The focus group discussion revealed that consumers were more likely to waste food when eating at home compared to dining out, as they tend to buy more than what they eventually consumed. Many participants said that they tend to shop on impulse, such as buying food items on promotion, instead of being guided by checklists and meal plans. Among the survey respondents who indicated that they usually buy more than enough food when grocery shopping, the most common reason given for doing so was to ensure that household members had more than enough to eat.

Nevertheless, the survey found that helping the family save money was the most commonly cited motivation (eight in 10) respondents gave as a trigger of change to reduce food waste, and it is heartening to note that concern for the environment came in a close second (77 per cent). Six in 10 respondents also indicated that they would waste less food if they had better information on how to plan meals and store food adequately. Overall, the results showed that awareness of food wastage is high, but more can be done to motivate consumers to take action to reduce food wastage.

Based on the findings, NEA will be launching a food wastage reduction program to encourage the public to prevent and reduce food waste at source. The program aims to encourage consumers to engage in smart food purchase, storage and preparation habits, to conserve valuable resources while saving on costs. Encouraging the reduction of food wastage is part of the plans under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint’s goal of Singapore becoming a Zero Waste Nation.

From today (November 23), posters and educational videos on food wastage will be featured through channels such as digital and mobile media platforms; at bus-stop shelters; in newspapers and on TV. The posters and educational videos draw comparisons between the cost of food wastage and what the money could be otherwise spent on.

Businesses keen to come on board the programme can contact NEA through the hotline at 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632).

From early next year, this program will be extended to schools to raise students’ awareness and encourage them to play a part in reducing food wastage. Schools will be supported with a package that includes resources such as activity guides and exhibits from NEA.

Ronnie Tay, NEA’s CEO said the amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased 1.5-fold during the past 10 years.

“While we work to reduce food waste disposed of through means such as food waste recycling and redistribution of unsold and excess food, the preferred approach remains that of preventing food wastage in the first place. We encourage everybody to buy only what he needs, or order only what he can finish, and help save the environment and resources by reducing food wastage.”

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