SEC’s latest video on water conservation

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) recently released this light-hearted video on water conservation.  Please have a look, and share it if you like it!

Image courtesy of SEC


SEC addresses food waste with its latest video

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) recently revealed this new video highlighting food waste in Singapore. More details below.

Singapore generated almost 800,000 tonnes of food waste last year. This means that if we had to load last year’s food waste into planes, we would need 1,420 Airbus A-380s to fit 796,000 tonnes of food waste. That’s a meal a day for every person in Singapore for an entire year.

While the problem is serious and is no laughing matter, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) wanted to strike a chord with as many Singaporeans as possible, releasing a light-hearted video recently.

Over the next few weeks and as part of our ENVision initiative, SEC will release another three more videos, focusing on environmental challenges like waste management, air quality and water conservation to encourage Singaporeans to make our Home, Community and City remain comfortable, endearing and environmentally sustainable through Care, Ownership and Responsibility.


ENVision is a series of public dialogue sessions initiated by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) to set a common vision and values for the environment based on the views and suggestions of Singaporeans. The exercise aims to engage participants from NGOs, schools, youths, private and public sectors, to the community, to provide their feedback and vision for the future of Singapore’s environment.

For more information about ENVision, please visit

About the Singapore Environment Council

Established in 1995, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) is an independently managed, non-government organisation that nurtures, facilitates and co-ordinates environmental causes in Singapore. SEC’s work is founded on three pillars of action – Firstly, partnership with the people, private and public sectors of Singaporean society, to nurture a culture aligned with sustainable development concepts. Secondly, SEC rewards environmental excellence through awards schemes and product endorsement programmes, such as the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme. Thirdly, the SEC collaborates with partners to develop and implement training and learning programmes to build competencies in environmental sustainability within companies, thus keeping our business leaders ahead of the curve. Visit our website at

Image taken by elmada

TODAY: SEC launches environmental audit programme for schools

TODAY reports that the Singapore Environmental Council (SEC) has come up with a simple audit programme for schools, where students are to inspect the green efforts of the schools and submit a report, which will then be verifed. SEC hopes that this will help instill green habits in the students, as well as assist the schools in improving upon their environmental efforts.

SEC launches environmental audit programme for schools

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) today launched a simple environmental audit programme for schools, and hopes to get all primary and secondary schools and junior colleges on board by 2015.

Th Schools’ Green Audit Awards (SGAA) was launched in 2000 and was last held in 2010, where it received 272 submissions. It will be held on an annual basis from this year onwards, with a fine-tuned audit protocol.

There will four basic levels of awards – Palm, Hibiscus, Orchid and Lotus. An additional level – the Lotus Sustained Achievement Award – will be given to schools that have attained the Lotus Award three or more times consecutively. Past history records of attaining the Lotus Award will be counted as long as they are obtained consecutively.

Students will work in teams to audit their school and submit results together with a report on their environmental efforts. In order to verify claims, the SEC will conduct random site visits and request schools for supporting documents where necessary. The SEC will also provide suggestions for improvements to schools.

The deadline for submission is Sept 30.

“It is never too early to inculcate green habits and practices amongst our youth. This year, SEC fine-tuned the points-based self-audit system with the aid of external auditors, making it a more stringent albeit accurate reflection of the green efforts of schools,” said Mr Jose Raymond, Executive Director of the SEC. “If followed closely, participation in the SGAA can potentially bring tangible returns to schools in the form of lower water and electricity bills, as well as an increase in recycling rates.”

In addition, this year’s SGAA will see the addition of a new feature – the PUB ABC Waters Learning Trails.

For more information about the SGAA, visit

Image from k_t

The Straits Times: Cut food waste, redistribute extra food, say experts

An inter-ministry committee was set up last week to look at the country’s of food security, and experts have suggested methods like educating consumers, rewards, community efforts, food banks, using high-vegetable diet and many more to bring down the percentage of food waste (currently 10%) generated in Singapore, The Straits Times reports.

Cut food waste, redistribute extra food, say experts

Cut food waste during packaging and preparation and redistribute spare food, say experts who have weighed in on the Government’s announcement of a new committee that will look into food waste and security.

Food is often wasted during packaging because customers want unblemished produce, said sustainability researcher Kua Harn-Wei.

To solve this, he pointed to initiatives like Britain’s Waste Resources and Action Programme, a non-government scheme that works with supermarkets to educate consumers and develop packaging to lengthen the shelf life of fresh vegetables. It also gets food and beverage outlets to offer smaller portion sizes.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond suggested the committee find out which industries are the biggest generators of food waste and reward them for cutting down, or conduct surprise audits.

The inter-ministry committee was announced last week by Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, who said that with Singapore’s reliance on food imports, the Republic needs to look at how to secure its food supply.

He did not have more details.

There could be better food redistribution and recycling, Dr Kua said, such as through food banks and other community efforts.

Technology, too, could help nudge people into throwing away less: Last year, a South Korean pilot programme used radio-frequency identification chips to weigh bags of food waste and charge customers by how much they threw away. It cut food waste by 25 per cent.

Singapore generated 675,500 tons of food waste, or 10 per cent of its overall waste by weight, last year. The bulk of that was incinerated rather than recycled for biogas or fertiliser. Contamination is one reason. Nanyang Technological University’s business school associate professor Josephine Lang, who has written on food waste management here, pointed out that in food courts, there is a need to separate food waste from other materials such as styrofoam plates and plastic utensils before it can be recycled.

In 2010, the National Environment Agency studied the costs and benefits of food waste recycling, and found that waste collection and processing at a centralised food-waste facility were not cost-effective.

But, a spokesman said: ‘These costs could decrease with economies of scale, better technologies, more efficient operation and improved waste segregation.’ On-site food-waste composting machines are one way to get around high collection and processing costs, and are used at some premises like hotels.

While cutting food waste is one means of improving food security, another means is diversifying food sources. Agricultural research is one route Singapore is taking. Last year, the National Research Foundation said it would invest up to $10 million over five years into disease-resistant rice, while the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Food Fund gives projects up to $2 million apiece over three years.

Another way is to preserve the traditional low-meat, high-vegetable diet of Asia, suggested Mr Zhang Hongzhou, a senior analyst at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in a paper earlier this year. Meat production is grain-intensive – a kilo of beef takes 7kg of grain to produce, while 1kg of pork requires 4kg of grain.

Community gardens, too, would not only be an extra food source, but would also raise public awareness – such as through teaching people how to turn vegetable waste into compost for gardening, said Mr Raymond.

Image from the lulu bird




Coca Cola pushes recycling message in the heartlands

Over the Earth Day weekend, Coca Cola Singapore and NorthEast CDC launched their partnership to promote environmental awareness through recycling.

Through this initiative, Give It Back! block parties will be organised together with the National Environment Agency (NEA). Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), where a reverse vending machine will be a fixture to highlight the act of recycling.  These parties will also communicate the how, why and where’s of recycling.

In addition, more than 360 HDB blocks in the Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC will carry recycling messages on lift doors informing of the importance of recycling, and the location of recycling bins.

The Straits Times [Commentary]: Do we need that plastic bag?

An excellent analysis by Grace Chua of The Straits Times on the for versus against plastic bag issue in Singapore.

Do we need that plastic bag?

Issue isn’t about getting rid of plastic bags, but about reducing their use

A FEW days ago, I found myself in the curious position of having no plastic bags left in the house, and needing to take out the trash.

That meant going to the supermarket and buying something that I was going to buy anyway, like a bunch of bananas, in order to get a bag to line my bin with.

Earlier this week, the Singapore Environment Council proposed that supermarkets, food outlets and provision shops start charging for plastic bags.

A flurry of letters to the press ensued, some arguing this would be too much of a burden, others calling it too little.

Like many others, I have a love-hate relationship with plastic bags.

Making and distributing them takes fossil fuels, and they do not break down in landfills or the ocean. A plastic bag, fluttering vacantly in the wind, is an easily demonised symbol for fossil fuel and resource consumption.

Yet it has multiple uses, particularly in modern cities. You may be able to eat that curry puff on the go or wrap groceries in newspaper, but you can’t really get on the bus dripping a trail of fishy water from a paper bag.

In fact, the environmental case for or against plastic bags isn’t so clear-cut.

An Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) study found that it takes 1.22kg of crude oil and 0.4kg of natural gas to make 1kg of plastic carrier bags. The real life-cycle cost of a plastic bag must also factor in the transport of that crude oil and gas, the processing of fossil fuels into polypropylene, and transporting the finished product to the city centre.

When all those costs are taken into account, plastic bags may not be worse than paper or reusable bags.

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency released a study showing that you would need to reuse a paper bag three times for its global warming impact to be as low as that of one high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic carrier bag.

And cotton bags are not innocent either. Making them uses fuel, water and resources. One cotton bag would have to be reused 131 times to have the same global warming impact as one HDPE bag.

If all HDPE plastic bags are reused once as bin liners, their environmental impact goes down still more. A paper bag would have to be reused seven times and a cotton bag 327 times for their impact to equal that of a plastic bag reused once.

What about biodegradable plastic and starch-plastic bags? They weigh more than ordinary plastic bags and so consume more energy during production and distribution, the UK report found.

The practical reality is, plastics are a part of modern life. They are popular for good reason: they are better than the existing alternatives at keeping food fresh or preventing contamination. They are lighter, waterproof and more durable.

So the issue is not about getting rid of plastic bags altogether. The issue is that far more are handed out each day than we really need. It’s about us minimising the use of plastic bags and thinking sensibly about what is a need, and what is a want.

The proposed 10-cent levy isn’t meant to defray the cost of producing or disposing of that plastic bag. It’s meant to be a nudge: do you really need that bag?

So is making people pay for plastic bags a good thing? It depends.

On the plus side, it can discourage overuse. Ireland introduced a plastic bag fee, or ‘PlasTax’ in 2002. It cut plastic bag use by 90 per cent, or nearly a million bags a year. The tax, now at €0.33 (S$0.55) per bag, has generated over €120 million for a state-run Environmental Fund that pays for waste recycling and garbage collection.

If there is a 10-cent levy imposed, all or at least part of the ‘bag tax’ should go to the Government to support environmental programmes, rather than straight into the pockets of retailers.

On the negative side, bag bans or levies can backfire if they encourage poorer substitutes. After a carrier bag levy of 50 Hong Kong cents (S$0.08) was imposed in 2009 in Hong Kong, people turned to heavier, thicker garbage bags to use as bin liners. Though the number of plastic carrier bags used dropped 77 per cent, the overall use of plastics in all bags went up 27 per cent, according to a 2011 study by the Hong Kong plastics industry.

Those seeking to ban or charge for bags must understand cultural practices.

Many people in Singapore reuse plastic bags for their trash. There are no laws mandating the bagging of household rubbish in Singapore, but public hygiene – and plain neighbourliness – would prod most of us to do so anyway.

That is not to say all plastic bags are necessary. One large bakery chain bags its cakes and buns individually at the cashier, before putting them into a larger plastic bag. Over-packaging is a cardinal sin against the environment. Besides plastic bags, many single-use styrofoam and plastic items are also unnecessary, such as takeaway boxes, cups and cutlery.

The proposed levy on plastic bags is thus not a statement that plastic bags are bad and should be stamped out. It is just a small symbol of a larger push to get consumers to think twice about their habits.

One writer to The Straits Times Forum page pointed out that not everyone carries a reusable bag around for small, spur-of-the-moment purchases.

That is a good starting point to consider whether you need that small, spur-of-the-moment purchase in the first place. You don’t save the environment by choosing paper bags for your unnecessary purchases; you do a better job by cutting out that consumption in the first place.

It is so difficult for us to be mindful of consumption and waste, that a bag levy would be a necessary kick in the butt in the right direction.

As for me, I don’t mind paying 10 cents for the privilege of having a bag to put my rubbish in like a civilised human being, before I throw it down the chute.

That in turn makes me think twice about generating so much rubbish in the first place. Seen from that perspective, 10 cents is really a small price to pay for a regular reminder of the need to conserve the earth’s resources.

Image taken from Bag Monster

The Straits Times: Plastic bag production ‘an environmental worry’

The Singapore Environment Council has been raising awareness on the environmental issues behind using plastic bags.

The Straits Times today published this story.

Plastic bag production ‘an environmental worry’

3 billion bags used here last year, needing 37m kg of crude oil to make

Plastic bag production in Singapore has been singled out as an environmental worry because of the amount of crude oil it uses.

About 1.2kg of the precious resource goes into every kilogram of bags manufactured, according to a study by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research. Another problem is the amount of carbon dioxide released during the process, which contributes to global warming.

Overall, this kind of production is a cause for concern, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) told The Straits Times.

Last year, Singaporeans used about three billion plastic bags, which consume roughly 37 million kg of crude oil and 12 million kg of natural gas. SEC executive director Jose Raymond said it was focusing on reducing the number of bags wasted in Singapore, calling it a ‘troubling symptom of our shift towards a throwaway culture’.

He advised consumers to keep a small, reusable bag for unplanned shopping trips, and a larger, durable one in the car for regular visits to the supermarkets.

Each year, more than one trillion plastic bags are used around the world, less than 2 per cent of which are recycled.

The rest end up in landfills – where they can take up to 1,000 years to break down – or as litter. In Singapore, plastic bags are incinerated along with domestic waste at one of four plants, which meet strict air-emission standards.

One way to reduce plastic bag consumption could be for shops that dish them out to customers to start charging. But retailers and hawker-stall owners say they will not do so until the Government makes it mandatory in case they lose customers to rivals who dispense them for free.

Supermarket chain Sheng Siong Group said it would not charge because ‘customers are bound to reject any extra costs to their purchases’.

Dairy Farm Singapore, which runs the Cold Storage, Shop N Save and Giant chains, said any move to reduce plastic bag usage should be approached in a pragmatic manner. ‘It is not so simple to just charge for bags to deter people from using them as there are potential implications which need to be considered,’ said a spokesman.

For instance, people re-use plastic bags for garbage disposal. Charging for bags may also lead to consumers seeking other sources of free plastic bags.

Smaller retailers were more vocal about what they saw as a move that may see them lose business. Sundry-shop owner Kew Eng Kwog, 73, said one customer chose his Toa Payoh shop over another because he is not ‘stingy’ about giving out bags. ‘If I charge for plastic bags and others don’t, I will lose business,’ he said.

Shoppers also said they would take their business elsewhere if they were charged.

In a Straits Times poll of 100 Singaporeans – equally divided between young and old – about half said they would not pay. ‘We buy things from them, so rightfully, we should be provided with plastic bags, as much as I would like to save the earth,’ said housewife Sara Sivaganam, 50.

Mr Pat Stuart, an 81-year-old retiree, said: ‘I think it’s not fair to us; we still need plastic bags to throw our rubbish. We also need them for practical purposes, to separate dry foodstuff from wet ones.’

Even if retailers across the board start charging, that may not solve the problem of wastage, said 33-year-old tutor Lester Lee. ‘People will get over the initial shock of having to pay for plastic bags and start buying them freely.’

Efforts have been made over the years to make consumers more environmentally conscious, with A Bring Your Own Bag Day rolled out by the SEC and National Environment Agency in 2007. The monthly campaign has progressed into a weekly affair, while some retailers have intensified moves to educate consumers.

Retail expert Sarah Lim, a senior lecturer at the Singapore Polytechnic, said retailers are not likely to support the pay system as they are ‘torn between supporting the green calling and protecting the business’.

But she added that if consumers have to pay for plastic bags, ‘they will be more conscious while shopping, and there will be less impulse buying’.

Image taken from ldysloot