Monthly Archives

September 2017

Green Talk

Interview with Eugene Tay for BYO Singapore Campaign

Eugene Tay is the Executive Director of Zero Waste SG, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to helping Singapore eliminate the concept of waste, and accelerate the shift towards zero waste and the circular economy.

This September, they launched a new campaign that took Singapore by storm – The BYO Singapore Campaign. The campaign offers incentives customers who practice the concept of “bringing your own” and aims to encourage more Singaporeans to practice this habit through incentives. As of now, there are about 21 vendors who are participating in this initiative, with 234 outlets spread across Singapore.

We talked to Eugene to find out more about this campaign, the challenges faced and its future.

TSP: What inspired you to start the BYO Singapore campaign?

Eugene Tay: Single-use plastic disposables pose a serious environmental problem around the world. In Singapore, the most common type of waste disposed of is plastic waste and the recycling rate for plastics has remained low over the past 13 years. So we can’t depend on plastic recycling and have to go upstream and reduce plastic disposables at source. One way is to encourage consumers to bring their own reusables with incentives provided by retailers.

TSP: Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when launching the BYO Singapore campaign? 

Eugene Tay: Majority of the retailers did not respond to or rejected our recruitment for the BYO campaign via emails or direct visits to stores. Some of them cite additional operating costs if they provided incentives, or that there are some challenges in the operations when they have to use the reusables provided by customers.

TSP: Since the launch of the campaign, what response have you received from the public? Are they generally supportive of this campaign?

Eugene Tay: The response from the public has been positive and they like the idea of getting incentives when they BYO. However, we have to see if this actually translates into more consumers BYOing during the campaign.

TSP: For those who are interested in getting involved with the BYO Singapore campaign, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

Eugene Tay: Visit the BYO Singapore campaign website at http://www.byosingapore.com and find out the retailers providing incentives and their locations. Visit the retail outlets with your reusables and start to BYO. It’s that simple!

TSP: What is the main goal for BYO Singapore campaign and what actions will be taken to achieve that goal?

Eugene Tay: The BYO Singapore campaign would provide information, incentives and resources to encourage people to bring their own reusables and reduce plastic disposables. Under the campaign, retailers would offer incentives to customers who bring their own reusable bags, bottles or containers. The main campaign goal is to sign up 500 retail outlets and reduce 1,000,000 pieces of disposables in 2017.

The BYO Singapore campaign would reach out to residents in the community, and also to working professionals through roadshows in the central business district and other business hubs. In addition, Zero Waste SG would be providing educational talks to companies and providing office starter kits (electronic copy) that include resources such as posters on BYO, advice on cleaning facilities in the pantry, and how to organise a BYO Day in the office.

TSP: What do you think the Singapore government can do to combat the issue of plastic waste?

Eugene Tay: Our recommendations to the government on reducing plastic disposables can be found here and here. 

TSP: Can you share with us 2 to 3 examples on how you lead a plastic-free life?

Eugene Tay: I bring my own bottle and bag regularly for my takeaway drinks and groceries. If I know that I’m buying takeaway food or going for an event buffet that serves plastic disposables, I would try to bring my usable container and utensils.

 

The BYO Singapore Campaign is a huge leap towards the encouragement of Singaporeans to reduce their plastic consumption. With the issue of plastic waste gaining more attention worldwide due to its impact and gravity, it is encouraging to witness the efforts taken to combat this issue and hopefully, more Singaporeans will start taking action and reduce their plastic waste by BYOing!

 

Others

Biodegradable vs Compostable vs Recyclable

Biodegradable. Compostable. Recyclable.

These are terms that are increasingly used by companies to describe their product. But does choosing one over the other make a real difference? Well, to be able to make a more informed decision for your next purchase, here is the breakdown of what each term means!

Biodegradable

Biodegradable products are those that are capable of being decomposed with the help of bacteria and other organisms. As compared to non-biodegradable products, they do not require any use of chemicals for decomposition. Hence, they are less environmentally damaging.

Compostable

Compostable is being defined by scientific standards ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868 and EN13432 as having the following characteristics:

  1. Biodegradability – 60-90% of the product is going to break down within 180 days
  2. Disintegration – 90% of the product is going to break down into pieces that are 2mm in size of less
  3. Eco-Toxicity – When that product breaks down in a commercial composting facility it is not going to leave heavy metals that are toxic to the soil

So basically, they are products that provide nutrients to the soil upon decomposition and has the least environmental impact!

Recyclable

As defined by ISO 14021, being recyclable is the “characteristic of a product, packaging, or associated component that can be diverted from the waste stream through available processes and programmes and can be collected, processed, and returned to use in the form of raw materials or products”. In layman’s term, recyclable products can be turned into something new. For example, notebooks made of recycled paper or skateboards made of recycled plastic.

Sustainability Reporting

3 Things To Know About Sustainability Reporting

From financial year ending 31 December 2017 onwards, all public listed companies on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) are required to issue a Sustainability Report on a “comply or explain” basis. This new requirement undeniably creates greater transparency towards companies’ sustainability actions and also increase awareness among stakeholders.

But as readers, what does this mean? How will it benefit us and do we have the basic knowledge to understand these reports? Well, here are 3 essential points you need to know about Sustainability Reporting!

1. It is more than the environment

It is normal to expect that a Sustainability Report will only cover topics relating to environmental conservation efforts of companies. However, there is so much more to that!

For sustainability reporting, the word “sustainable” is being regarded as a holistic definition and covers economic, environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) factors. One should take note that ESG issues are topics that pose risks and opportunities to a business, hence excluding charitable and philanthropy activities.

Examples of social issues could be the use of child labour in a company’s operations or the company’s actions to ensure that occupational health and safety for its workers.

2. It’s all about the frameworks

All Sustainability Reports require the use of a certain reporting framework as a guideline for reporting and disclosure. The framework chosen should be suited to the company’s industry and business model. There are numerous frameworks to choose from, such as CDP, DJSI, GRI, GRESB, SASB.

One of the more popular frameworks used is the GRI framework, with 74% of the world’s largest corporation using it as a basis for their Sustainability Report. GRI is an international independent organisation which helps businesses understand and communicate their impact on sustainability issues.

Under the GRI framework, there are two categories of standards – universal and topic specific. Universal standards cover the foundation, general disclosures and management approach. This includes the reporting principles, materiality matrix, the disclosure of operations or scale of organisation and the management actions towards certain material issues.

Topic specific standards are more focused towards the economic, environmental and social topics. Within the ESG umbrella, there are smaller topics that can be disclosed by a company. For example, under the environmental (GRI 300) topic, possible issues could be materials (GRI 301), energy (GRI 302) or water (GRI 303).

3. The 3Ps – Policy, Practice and Performance

Firstly, each company is required to identify the ESG issues that are regarded material to them. The materiality is assessed based on a various number of indicators, but most importantly, taking into the account of stakeholders’ interest.

After which, for each material issue, the company would have to set out a policy, elaborate on the company’s practice and their related performance and target. For example, by having a no deforestation policy, the company ensure that no forest is being cleared for development purposes. They will report their performance in terms of the hectare of the deforested area and their target in 5 years time.

The 3Ps will form the general content of the Sustainability Report and allow the reader to evaluate whether the company is performing as it intended to and its current status.

 

To learn more about SGX’s sustainability reporting guide, click here.

 

Sustainable Living

All About The Zero Waste Hierarchy

The term “Zero Waste” is no longer a stranger to all of us. Over the years, leading a zero waste life has been advocated by numerous environmentally conscious individuals worldwide. But how exactly do you achieve it? Here are some facts about the zero waste hierarchy and tips on how each level is practiced!

The zero waste hierarchy is defined as the “progression of policies and strategies to support the Zero Waste system, from highest and best to lowest use of materials”. The 5 levels are: Reduce (Most preferred), Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Landfill (Least preferred).

Reduce: The amount of waste produced

Reducing our waste might be one of the most difficult steps in the hierarchy. As such, small steps have to be taken to practice this in our daily lives. To reduce your waste, a key question to ask yourself before purchasing an item would be “Is this a need or a want?”.

Most of the time, the item that we wish to purchase is more likely to be a want than a need. Other questions that can be taken into consideration could be: How long do you foresee yourself using the item? Will it truly add value in your life? Are there any other alternative eco products?

Just by avoiding the act of impulse buying, you can help to prevent the wastage of resources and at the same time, save your money!

Reuse: Materials as much as possible

The important notion of “waste nothing, use everything” can aid in the habit of reusing. Most of us disregard the power and ease of reusing as we fail to see that almost everything and anything can be reused! For example, pasta sauce that comes in a glass bottle can be reused to store your snacks (after cleaning it properly first).

Next time, before throwing something away, take a moment to reconsider if the item can be reused for any other purposes!

Recycle: Everything you can

Recycling is definitely not a stranger to anyone. Recycling bins can be found in almost in every city and country. So, nothing should be stopping you from recycling!

Recover: Energy from waste

For some of us, recovery of energy from waste is a novel concept as it is not a widespread practice. In some countries, they have facilities that convert their waste to energy which contributes significantly to the concept of recovery.

For example, Norwegians residents are encouraged to sort their waste into various categories (organic, plastic and others). From there, the organic waste is then transformed into biogas which can be used as bio fuel for buses in Oslo. Although recovery might be difficult without the help of the government or large corporations, we can contribute individually by repairing our items instead of throwing them out!

Landfill

The last level – landfill, is probably the option in the hierarchy that is viewed as the last choice. Unless you really cannot practice the 4 levels of the hierarchy aforementioned, then it will end up in the landfill.

 

For more information about the zero waste hierarchy, click here!