SINGAPORE: Two hawkers centres - one in Ang Mo Kio and one in Tiong Bahru – will have food waste recycling machines by early December, after two companies won a tender to install and maintain them. These machines can reduce food waste by up to 95 per cent.
VRM Operations will maintain the machine at Tiong Bahru Market, while Eco-Wiz will operate another at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 Market, after earning the tender worth about S$257,000 from the National Environment Agency (NEA). The tender is part of a two-year pilot.
The machine has microbes to decompose food waste into reusable water within 24 hours. With little to no food waste, there will be less rubbish and that means less fuel is needed to transport the trash to incineration plants.
NEA announced the pilot in March this year. The tender was called on May 18 and closed on Jun 4 with five bids. Successful bidders have to install and maintain the food waste recycling machines, as well as train cleaners and stall holders.
In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, NEA said the two companies were chosen after evaluating their "price competitiveness" and the quality of their proposals. The agency added that the hawker centres were selected based on the number and mix of their stalls.
Ang Mo Kio hawker centre has almost 220 stalls, and the stall owners Channel NewsAsia spoke to were in favour of the pilot programme. However, they said that there are issues that need to be ironed out. For example, the cleaners are mostly elderly and may require coaxing to sort food from trash. Another issue has to do with the size of the stalls.
"We have one bin inside for our own rubbish," said Mr Kamsan Alias, co-founder of a Malay food stall at Ang Mo Kio Market. "Another one we've placed outside for the cleaner to put plates into. If they provide another two, where will we put it?"
Eco-Wiz, which will manage the machine at the market said that it will approach each stall owner to see how much and what type of waste it generates. Based on that, it will provide stall owners with bigger or smaller bins to collect food waste.
It will also conduct a separate study of waste collected from 10 different stalls, towards informing authorities what kind of waste is being generated by stalls, whether it is food, cartons or plastics.
The company has installed more than 30 machines around Singapore and one of them is at the Kopitiam in Changi Airport's Terminal 3. It took about two months for the company to train cleaners and for operations to run smoothly.
"At first I was not used to it," said Ms Tan Lee Ai, a cleaner at Kopitiam. " It was a bit troublesome to pour here and there. Slowly it's getting better and I'm used to it."
On top of training cleaners at the Ang Mo Kio Market, Eco-Wiz said it is also about getting the infrastructure right.
"For Changi Airport, the food is being collected at tray return stations," said Mr Michael Lee, a sales manager at the company. "For Ang Mo Kio Market, it's being collected by trolleys. So we will give them additional bins for them to do segregation on the trolleys. Cleaners will segregate the waste onto separate bins and transport the bins into the digesting system."
Eco-Wiz said it expects to take about three months for operations to run smoothly. It added that it will also have staff on standby to assist cleaners and stall owners for that period.