SINGAPORE: A two-year on-site food waste recycling pilot at two hawker centres, Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market and Tiong Bahru Market, was launched on Thursday (Jan 21).
The National Environment Agency (NEA) estimated that each market generates two to three tonnes of food waste daily, with the majority from stalls in the wet market and table cleaning operations. If the pilot is successful, food waste recycling could reduce the total waste generated from both hawker centres by up to 80 per cent, the agency said.
For instance, the machine at Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market, operated by Eco-Wiz, is able to convert one tonne of food waste into water within 24 hours. Customised microbes would break down food waste to convert it into water, and the water is then used for cleaning the bin centre.
Eco-Wiz took about a week to train the cleaners and hawkers to sort the waste collected at the market.
"They told us what we cannot put in and what we need to separate. For example, the prawn shells and egg shells cannot be thrown in," said Ms Cindy Tan, a cleaner at the market. "It was more troublesome initially because we have to separate used tissues and food, but it's okay after we got used to it."
The Eco-Wiz food waste recycling machine. (Photo: Sherlyn Goh)
The machine at Tiong Bahru Market, under VRM Operations, grinds up food waste and mixes it with micro-organisms. The resulting mixture is stored on the premise in 15 1,000-litre tanks. When the tanks are full, they are transported off-site to be converted into bio-fertiliser for agricultural purposes.
Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources and Health Amy Khor participating in a demonstration of the food waste recycling system at Tiong Bahru Market. (Photo: Sherlyn Goh)
(From left): Mr Ken Bellamy, founder and director of VRM Operations, with Senior Ministers of State Indranee Rajah and Ms Khor. (Photo: Sherlyn Goh)
Vendors at both markets install and maintain the food waste recycling machines, as well as train cleaners and stall holders to segregate waste.
VRM Operations said that getting cleaners and hawkers on board to separate the organic waste from other materials was not difficult after they addressed concerns raised by them.
NEA and VRM Operations have been engaging the hawkers since May last year. Efforts were intensified in the November and December period when they went from stall to stall to speak to hawkers and taught cleaners how to segregate the waste.
"This is an open situation where birds can fly in, so there are rules as to how to store materials that can go rotten so that the birds and rats don't get attracted," said VRM Operations' founder and director Ken Bellamy. "We had to devise a type of bucket that was easy for them to see in quickly and then close after. We had to make sure that they could easily lift it so it wasn't a big bin that two people could carry."
When the winning bids were announced in October last year, NEA had said that the markets were selected based on the number and mix of their stalls. There are a total of 218 stalls and 342 stalls at Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market and Tiong Bahru Market, respectively.
The pilot, which is expected to conclude in December 2017, is part of Singapore's efforts to become a zero-waste nation under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015.
Guest-of-Honour Koh Poh Koon, taking a look at the recycling system at the Ang Mo Kio hawker centre. (Photo: Sherlyn Goh)
Speaking at the launch, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor said that apart from building up capability to recycle food waste, consumers have a part to play as well.
"We are not just looking at recycling food waste but actually the best way to reduce food waste is not to create it in the first place,” she said.
To that end, Dr Khor said that NEA has started outreach efforts to encourage members of the public to reduce food wastage at home. She added that the agency is also partnering with food retail businesses to redistribute excess or unsold food.
Food waste accounts for 10 per cent of total waste generated in Singapore. In 2014, 788,600 tonnes of food waste was generated of which 101,400 tonnes was recycled. The remaining food waste was disposed of at incineration plants, according to NEA.