The term “BYO” is not one that is unheard of, with its prevalence in our current society. But, if this if your first time hearing it, BYO is a practice where one brings their own lunch boxes, bottles, cutlery etc. for usage instead of relying on disposable plastics. 

Such a practice touches on many aspects of life, from the food you love, to shopping. Why are so many people adopting this practice and pushing businesses to encourage BYO?

Let’s dig in! No, not into the food, although that works as well.



The Problem

Did you know? 820 million supermarket plastic bags are used each year in SG, equating to a staggering land area equivalent to 126 times Gardens by The Bays!

Coupled with the fact that Semakau landfill’s estimated lifespan ends is 2035, in just 15 years you would have a heap of trash the size of an island and Singapore with no landfill. 

You might think that using paper bags and recycling them might seem like a much better option than plastic, and maybe even the go-to for some of us. Yet they shouldn’t be the end goal; it’s not enough.

Only 56% of paper waste was recycled in Singapore 2018, and just producing those paper bags leaves devastating impacts on forests worldwide due to the virgin pulp used. In addition, food contaminated paper bags cannot be recycled. It’s much better to reduce, and move away from disposables. 


Why BYO?

I am sure you are aware of the comprehensive, compelling list of environmental reasons you should BYO. And we are here to share that with you again. Every time you BYO, you prevent another plastic bag or greasy piece of paper piling up in our landfills.

Let’s say you BYO-ed once every day, for a year. You might have just prevented 365 plastic bags (or more) from entering our landfill. Now imagine half of us doing that. With a population of 5.70 million in 2019, we would have prevented 2.85 mil * 365 = 1,014,600,000 plastic bags from entering our landfill – quite the number.

But wait, there’s more! BYO eliminate plastics and saves you money! Qian!

With the BYO Singapore campaign run by Zero Waste SG, an extensive network of F & B retailers offer incentives such as a dollar discount for your coffee at Carrotsticks & Cravings, or even two free toppings at Happy Salad! Coupled with the fact that you need not pay the extra bit for take-aways (which adds up), you’re turning all that potential waste into cash!

What a deal.



BYO… bandwagon?

Well, you might be wondering where BYO stands in our community. Are others leading more sustainable lives? Is this why everyone seems to have enough money for presents? Just how big is this?

There’s a growing number of consumers, and producers alike encouraging such a lifestyle. From internet personalities seemingly embodying and promoting such practices, to the retailers that actually incentivise it, the prevalence of BYO permeates different aspects of life.

Furthermore, it has gained significant traction in Singapore since the BYO Singapore movement started in 2017. As of last year July, they had “881 outlets from 111 brands”; an extensive market reach. 

Well, it is as big as you want it to be. You want it big in the community, big in your life. And it is.

Media coverage is also growing. News and media channels such as CNA, ST, Today Online, NUS Blog, and many more are spreading awareness and growing the culture, a tasteful culture many are joining.

Hop on. Join us. Inspire others!



How To Start BYOing?

Want to share this more sustainable way of life? Here’s a starter kit just for you. BYO essentials; must-haves for not only typical situations of food courts and restaurants but as far as your creativity takes it. Say, it makes you want to go out camping or to a picnic with friends, doesn’t it?

They include:

  • Bottles 
  • Bags (produce bags, shopping bags, tote bags, snack bags, you name it),
  • Straws,
  • Cutlery,
  • Lunchboxes.

This is but, of course, a recommendation. Tweak it to your tastes, lifestyle, and get only what you’ll use! If you’ve decided what disposables you want to replace, and is wondering where you can find quality products beautifully crafted for such needs, visit our online shop!

Go on, take another step; the first isn’t the last! Use BYO products that can be recycled… and recycling them goes a long way.

For example, plastic lunch boxes sound great as reusables, but truly sustainable folks will take a moment to consider the product’s after-life effects. Plastic lunch boxes can definitely reduce your use of disposable Styrofoam take-aways, but why not get a stainless steel one? 

And some tips from fellow explorers 😊. While most of us do not face any problems BYO-ing at hawker centres and food courts, restaurants operate at a more professional level. You’re paying more for it too. So do follow simple etiquette to ring the restaurant beforehand and check if they allow you to BYO, and please respect the restaurant policy if they decline politely!



BYO is still a privilege; its collaborative!

BYO is a collaborative culture, grown through the mutual motives of both consumers and producers. Imagine if we all brought our own lunchboxes, bottles, and cutlery but not a single store agrees to put their food in them. 

It would be wasteful. 

Wasted efforts, wasted time, wasted materials, another wasted opportunity to save what’s already long overdue – our environment. You must understand that retailers face many obstacles just as we face many inconveniences to partake in this culture, for nothing comes if you put nothing in. 

Retailers face questions such as liability of potential food poisoning, whether or not your home-brought container is halal etc. By letting you provide the service of containing the food or product, they lose a chance to provide service and profit, as well as blur the lines between responsibility- who’s service is it really?

What if the way they serve it is part of what you’re paying for? What if it’s the presentation of dishes, or the ensured quality and freshness of dishes? What if they even drive away customers by charging for disposables?

Businesses and retailers take a risk when they play their role in helping this BYO or green culture grow. We need to appreciate that. There’s a line they draw as profit-driven businesses. We need to respect that.


I hope this article can act as a simple foundation for you to kickstart your journey, as well as to inspire others by sharing such information in a compelling, digestible way. Thank you, and happy BYO-ing!