Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Food Resource Valorisation Awards on 29 September 2021
Er Lee Chuan Seng, Chairman of the National Environment Agency
Professor William Chen, Director of NTU Food Science and Technology Programme
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 A very good morning to all. It is my pleasure to be here for the inaugural Food Resource Valorisation Awards. Before I begin, please join me in giving another round of applause to all our award recipients.
Building a Sustainable Singapore
2 Food waste is a global problem. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste is generated every year. Food waste is also one of the largest waste streams in Singapore. In 2020, about 665,000 tonnes of food waste was generated. This is equivalent to the weight of about 46,000 double decker buses, and only about 19 per cent was recycled. More can and needs to be done to reduce the amount of food waste that goes to our incineration plants as valuable resources are wasted in their production, distribution and disposal.
3 The increasing amount of waste puts pressure on our finite resources and waste management infrastructure. This is not sustainable, especially in land-scarce Singapore. Our sole landfill, the Semakau Landfill, is expected to run out of space by 2035 at current waste disposal rates. There is an increasing need to shift from a linear economy model of “take-make-dispose” to a circular one in which resources are reused endlessly.
4 The Government has taken major steps to catalyse Singapore’s transition towards a circular economy. We launched the Zero Waste Masterplan in 2019, to map out our key strategies to reduce the amount of waste going to our landfill by 30 per cent by 2030. In the same year, we introduced the landmark Resource Sustainability Act to put in place an Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, framework for our three priority waste streams: electrical and electronic waste, or e-waste for short; food waste; and packaging waste, which includes plastics.
5 Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, we aim to frontload our waste reduction efforts, to achieve a reduction in the amount of waste sent to Semakau Landfill by 20 per cent by 2026. This will help to prolong the lifespan of Semakau Landfill beyond 2035.
Role of food resource valorisation in closing the food waste loop
6 To reduce waste and drive efforts to close the food waste loop, the National Environment Agency (NEA) had earlier announced plans for large commercial and industrial food waste generators to segregate and treat their food waste starting from 2024. NEA is also consulting the industry to develop a framework for these premises to measure and report the amount of food waste segregated for treatment. As mentioned by Chairman in his speech, the Food Resource Valorisation Awards was launched this year to recognise companies that engage in food resource valorisation and raise awareness of this concept.
7 Unlike conventional food waste treatment approaches that process food waste into usable products like compost or non-potable water, food resource valorisation goes one step further by converting food waste into value-added products, some of which can be looped back into our food supply chain. This approach not only reduces the amount of food waste generated, but also strengthens the resilience of our food system and contributes to Singapore’s vision of building the capability to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030. This is particularly important given that we import over 90 per cent of our food.
Companies as key stakeholders in driving food resource valorisation
8 2021 continues to be a challenging year for businesses, as they navigate the ongoing COVID-19 situation and seek sustainable solutions to improve resource resilience. For the food industry, we saw how disruptions to supply chains, for example in feedstock, can negatively impact food manufacturers and farms. In such difficult times, I am heartened to see many companies adopting innovative processes and uncovering synergies with industry partners to transform their operating models into more efficient and circular ones.
9 Our award winners have adopted multiple valorisation solutions, each focusing on different aspects of the food supply chain. We have companies which have turned by-products from the food manufacturing process into other valuable resources. For example, Asia Pacific Breweries turns its spent barley grains from the beer brewing process into ingredients for animal feed instead of disposing them.
10 Other companies have focused their attention on surplus food such as bread, or unwanted parts such as fruit peels. One such company is Crust Group, which has partnered restaurants and food retail outlets to turn the surplus products from these premises into beverages. Another company, Insectta, has tapped on insects to process food waste into useful products. Insectta has developed the use of black soldier fly technology to turn homogenous by-products such as okara and spent barley grains into biomaterial such as chitosan for use in pharmaceutical applications.
11 Congratulations to all our award winners! I hope that the successes of these trailblazers will serve as inspiration for the rest of the industry.
12 I would also like to thank companies for your dedication and efforts in closing our resource loops. The shift towards a circular economy cannot be achieved by the Government’s efforts alone. We need to forge active and meaningful partnerships with all stakeholders, such as food manufacturers and solution providers. We will continue to support companies, both small and large, in this paradigm shift towards a circular economy, by gathering expertise from the industry, Government and research institutes to expand and develop our local food resource valorisation capabilities.
13 Let me conclude. All of us have a part to play in this journey towards a circular economy, which presents many new opportunities for innovation and economic growth. Together, we can turn Singapore into a global city of sustainability, and a bright green spark that inspires the world and our future generations.
14 Thank you.