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Green Talk

Interview with People’s Movement to Stop Haze

People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze) is a non-profit organisation which focuses on outreach, research and advocacy haze-related concerns. Its mission is to “drive a global movement to stop the haze by empowering the community with the knowledge, means and values to do so”. This is achieved by steering consumption patterns towards sustainable palm oil and paper as well as assisting Indonesian and Malaysian farmers to create a sustainable livelihood.

We had the opportunity to talk to Co-founder, Tan Yi Han, to find out more about the organisation.

 

TSP: What inspired you to start People’s Movement to Stop Haze?

PM Haze: After experiencing haze since I was in Secondary 1, I felt frustrated why the haze had not been solved after so many years. In 2013, I decided to see for myself who was burning and volunteered with Global Environment Centre, a Malaysia-based organisation, which was tackling the root causes of haze.

When the record-breaking 2013 haze hit, we went to ground zero, where we saw areas that were burnt out as far as the eye could see. At one such location, we spoke to local farmers who shared that they had lost all their crops when the fire spread in from neighbouring land. Despite the tragedy that had befallen them, as we interviewed them, they still served us coffee and nuts. Touched by their simple kindness, I vowed to do what I could to prevent their suffering from fires and haze. After I came back to Singapore, I spoke with friends about trying to do something from Singapore to stop haze. Thankfully, some of my friends believed in me and together we formed People’s Movement to Stop Haze.

 

TSP: Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when carrying out activities for People’s Movement to Stop Haze?

PM Haze: Over the course of these two years, we have spoken to about a hundred eateries, from small hawker centre stalls to large eatery chains. Most of them use palm oil, but even after we shared the issue with them, many were not inclined to switch to sustainable palm oil. They cited barriers such as cost, preference for certain oil or supplier as well as convenience in getting the oil as part of a package of dry goods from a wholesaler. Thankfully, we managed to reach out to some eateries whose management were already environmentally conscious, and so once they learnt about sustainable palm oil, they switched within one or two weeks. It was very encouraging.

 

TSP: Since the launch of People’s Movement to Stop Haze, what is the general response from the public?

PM Haze: We are fortunate that the haze problem is one that people in Singapore relate to, so we do get lots of opportunities to give talks or set up roadshow booths. We also do get a steady stream of volunteers of about 1 or 2 a month. Of course, when there is no haze, it is hard to get mass support for our campaigns, so we are looking to broaden our message to stay relevant.

 

TSP: Can you share with us a few statistics on the impact of People’s Movement to Stop Haze over the years?

PM Haze: In 2015, we came up with a PSI based on hourly-PM2.5 readings, which were more accurate than the 24-hour average PM2.5 that the official PSI readings used. As a result, we had a flood of 30,000 visits in less than a month (27 Sept – 1 Oct 2015). Together with media and civic pressure, the government eventually created bands for their hourly-PM2.5 readings to allow people to interpret the hourly-PM2.5 readings more easily.

This year we have gotten 3 eateries to use sustainable palm oil as a direct result of our outreach. We have also supported youth advocates to do outreach campaigns in SIM and nationwide.

 

TSP: For those who are interested in getting involved with People’s Movement to Stop Haze, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

PM Haze: Start by learning about this complex and yet fascinating issue through following us on Facebook and signing up for our monthly newsletter via pmhaze.org . If you’re keen to join us in taking action, you can sign up as a volunteer at pmhaze.org/volunteer or look out for our ad-hoc volunteering opportunities via our Facebook or newsletter.

 

TSP: How has the government been contributing to your organisation’s aim to combat the haze issue?

PM Haze: The government has been supportive in terms of giving verbal encouragement for sustainable palm oil and complimenting the work that we do. We also have frequent closed-door meetings to exchange knowledge and ideas.

 

TSP: What are some of your future plans for the People’s Movement to Stop Haze? 

PM Haze: Next year we will be building on our existing work on sustainable palm oil but also moving into the field of responsible finance, where Singapore can play an even bigger role. Responsible finance at its minimum means avoiding lending or investing money to companies which engage in unethical and unsustainable practices. We hope to work with other organisations to raise public awareness and demand for responsible finance and move the financial institutions in Singapore further along this road.

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!