The idea behind zero waste is simple – eliminate the entire concept of ‘waste’ so that nothing goes to our landfills. However, this is easier said than done. Zero waste discourages the acceptance that waste is a byproduct which is inevitable and doesn’t call for any concern. Waste, in this case, is defined as something unwanted and no longer desirable. In other words, waste has no value.
Some believe that recycling and using biodegradable plastic equates to living a zero waste lifestyle. However, think again. The truth is that we cannot recycle or decompose our way to zero waste. This is because recycling incurs cost and energy.
In addition, recycling may be a downgrading process for certain materials. There is a limit to the number of times a material can be recycled before it is degraded beyond use. That is to say, the ultimate destination for most recyclable materials is the landfill.
Why zero waste?
According to Zero Waste SG, the waste accumulated in Singapore has multiplied by seven folds over the past 50 years or so. As of 2015, an estimated 8,284 tonnes of waste is accumulated each day. At this rate, our Semakau Landfill will be full in less than 30 years! It’s time we do some waste management in Singapore!
KFC Singapore recently started the No Straws initiative to reduce single-use plastics. The fast food restaurant eliminated plastic straws and caps on top of their green initiatives last year, when reusable plastic baskets were used for serving instead of paper boxes. It is estimated that the No Straws initiative will bring forth a reduction of 17.8 metric tons of single-use plastics per year!
Zero waste, how?
The idea of zero waste can be overwhelming. Fret not! It takes years to improve on personal waste management and nearly impossible for anyone to achieve absolute zero wastage. Waste management requires long-term commitment and determination. Nonetheless, every small but dedicated effort makes a huge difference for waste management in Singapore. Kickstart your zero waste journey with us by following these 7 easy methods below!
1. Avoid plastic straws
Let’s follow in KFC’s footsteps and ditch plastic straws! When ordering your drinks, let the server know that you don’t need a straw. A small action like this not only helps with waste management in Singapore, it also contributes to the efforts to reduce marine plastic pollution.
If the lack of a straw affects your dining experience, why not grab yourself a reusable stainless steel straw? Not only do these straws help with waste management in Singapore, they also accessorize any cup or tumbler with their stylish colours.
Stainless steel straws are often sold in a small bundle, coupled with a mini cleaning brush to ensure your straws are kept clean and safe for use. There are even foldable ones that are portable and convenient to bring around!
2. Say no to plastic bags
If you’ve visited countries such as Korea and Japan, you will know that there’s room for improvement when it comes to the way Singapore manages the use of plastic bags. Distributed generously at most stores and supermarkets, many Singaporeans have adopted the mindset that plastic bags are an entitlement upon transaction.
According to the Singapore Environment Council, Singaporeans used an astonishing 3 billion plastic bags during the year of 2011. While many of us have the habit to store and reuse plastic bags, these bags still end up in the landfills eventually because only a small percentage of them are recycled. The remaining, biodegradable or not, are incinerated and the residual ash is tossed in Pulau Semakau landfill.
Incineration of plastic bags produce toxic fumes which result in air pollution. On top of that, when plastic bags become litter, they cause environmental pollution by clogging our waterways, dirtying our streets and pose potential harm for marine life in our oceans.
Play your part in preserving our environment by bringing your own reusable bag. These affordable bags come in many designs and sizes, you’re bound to find one that matches your style! Moreover, many of these bags are made of light nylon material which can be folded easily for greater portability!
3. Use reusable water bottles
Think reusable water bottles are for primary school kids? Think again! There are many functional water bottles, tumblers or vacuum flasks that are reusable and stylish for adults. These come in different sizes to cater to your consumption habits and are easy to wash.
Plastic bottles meant for single usage may pose health problems when reused. This is because the material is weaker and may break down after multiple washes, allowing bacteria infiltration. Moreover, many of these single-use plastic bottles are not recycled and end up in the landfills. Care for your health and waste management in Singapore – stop buying bottled drinks and use a reusable water bottle instead!
4. Use bamboo toothbrushes
Zero waste can be applied to your oral care too! We throw away old plastic toothbrushes at least once every three months. These brushes (mostly non-biodegradable) contribute to the massive pile of trash in the landfill and take more than a thousand years to degrade. When not disposed properly, plastic toothbrushes can clog our waterways and pollute our oceans.
Make the switch to a bamboo toothbrush instead! Recommended as an environmentally sustainable material due to its fast-growing nature, bamboo is strong as a material and biodegradable in landfills. It is a great alternative for daily items such as toothbrushes, combs and utensils!
5. Use menstrual cups
On average, a woman use about 20 pads or tampon each month. Imagine the amount of products each woman uses in her entire lifetime! These feminine hygiene products are often wrapped in plastic packaging and add on to the burden at the landfill.
Stop buying disposable pads and tampons, choose reusable menstrual cups instead! Made of medical grade silicone, menstrual cups can be easy to use (you just need some practise) and wash. Moreover, menstrual cups are economical and cost-saving! Help improve waste management in Singapore while reducing the burden on your wallet!
6. Bring your own handkerchief
Handkerchiefs are not only meant for the older generations. They are great environmentally-friendly alternatives to disposable paper napkins and tissue packets. Many people in Singapore have a habit of bringing tissue packets in their purses and bags. Despite being absorbent and handy, tissue packets contribute greatly to our waste amount.
The plastic packaging used to hold the tissues are usually non-biodegradable and stays in our landfill for a long time. Moreover, spending money on single-use products just isn’t cost-effective!
Handkerchiefs on the other hand, can be washed and reused for a long time. They also come in many designs to express your style! Take your zero waste efforts a step further by making handkerchiefs out of old clothes or sheets!
7. Meal plan to avoid food waste
Zero Waste doesn’t stop at the products you use. The food you consume (or don’t consume) can add on significantly to our landfills. According to National Environment Agency, 10% of the total waste generated in our nation are made up of food waste. With our growing population, there is no doubt that the amount of food waste generated will increase.
Meal planning can alleviate this problem. The first step to meal planning is to estimate the amount of food you can finish. Buy and cook only the amount that you can consume so as to reduce food wastage. Start by having a list of all the meals you are going to whip up for the upcoming week. Check the fridge for leftover ingredients before going to the supermarket. This ensures that you don’t waste money on ingredients you already have and ingredients you won’t use for the week. Meal planning reduces food wastage as you eliminate leftover ingredients that are more likely to rot before their next use. In addition, you get better control and estimation of the amount of food consumed by the family. This helps to prevent food wastage, contributing to zero waste efforts.
These 7 steps are easy to follow and implement to kickstart your zero waste lifestyle. For the greater good of our nation and future generations, spread the zero waste lifestyle to your friends and family! Take the initiative a step further, read about how you can give preloved clothes and tech gadgets a second life!
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