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Zero-Waste Living In Singapore

3 min read
Do your bit to save the earth by practising the 4Rs.

Over the past 45 years, the amount of waste generated in Singapore has increased seven times, from 1,200 tonnes a day in 1970 to 8,284 tonnes in 2015. If this pattern of waste disposal continues, our Semakau Landfill would reach its limit by 2050, and additional incineration plants would have to be built every seven to 10 years.

Zero-waste living is simply about reducing trash that’s bound for the landfill to the bare minimum. It challenges you to cut down on what you throw away by making simple adjustments to the way you go about your daily life. Think about it — it can help conserve our resources, reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and increase the lifespan of our Semakau Landfill.

Not all of us can do it like Lauren Singer, who managed to cut down waste to the point where she generated only one mason jar’s worth of trash after a span of four years! However, we can all make easy changes to help us on this zero-waste journey. If it helps, follow the 4R rule: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

Refuse what you do not need
Say “no” to single-use items, such as plastic straws with your bubble tea, plastic bags at the supermarket, or disposable containers and cutlery that come with your takeaway meals. As many places have started charging for single-use disposable items, bringing your own may help you save money in the long run. Refusing to eat from a disposable plastic or Styrofoam container may even help you avoid the harmful chemical additives in plastics and polystyrene.

Reduce what you do need
Don’t buy more than you need. You don’t need five reusable coffee cups in different colours when you really only use one. Cutting down on excess applies to every aspect of life, including food, clothing, electronics and stationery. Planning ahead helps when it comes to shopping. Make a list and resolve to buy only what you need. Learn to fix things that are broken rather than simply discarding and buying a replacement. It is better for the planet to buy a few good-quality items and repair them when necessary, rather than buy loads of cheap but disposable stuff.

Reuse by choosing objects you can use over and over again
If you buy a bottle of water every day, switching to a reusable water bottle means a reduction of 365 plastic bottles a year that end up in a landfill. You may find it troublesome at first to carry around all the reusable items — such as your metal straws and food containers — but it is a small inconvenience in your first step towards making the world more liveable.

During this COVID-19 period, we can also wear reusable cloth masks as a protective cover, and leave the disposable surgical masks for those working at the frontlines, such as healthcare workers, food handlers and cleaners. You can include three cloth inserts and rotate each layer so that the weaves criss-cross for added protection.

Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse
Before throwing anything in the trash, do a little research to see if there are any designated recycling bins for the items. For electronic waste, check online for locations where e-waste is collected for recycling. For unexpired food, you can check out Foodbank. If the items are in good condition, you can also consider donating them to charitable organisations, such as the Salvation Army. For a list of places to recycle or donate your stuff, check out the article ‘Declutter for a Good Cause’.

If you enjoy crafting, you can even turn trash into treasure. Visit websites with inspiring ideas on upcycling trash or recycling craft activities you can do with the kids. For ideas on turning trash to art, check out the Yodogawa Technique, which uses garbage and floating debris that have drifted to the riverbank to create amazing artworks.