There’s no doubt that us Singaporeans are addicted to disposable plastic.
- We use over 1.76 billion plastic items each year. Less than 20 percent of this is recycled.
- Each year, we use 820 million supermarket plastic bags and 473 million polypropylene plastics, which are used to make takeaway cups and containers.
- On average, we use 6 plastic bags a day, twice as much as our Malaysian counterparts.
Recently, there’s been lots of talk about how companies can do their part to reduce plastic waste. For example, KFC has removed plastic straws and lids from its restaurants, a move that will save 17.8 metric tonnes of single-use plastic annually, while large retailers like Redmart have switched to oxo-biodegradable plastic bags. Schools have also jumped on the bandwagon. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will ban free plastic bags on campus from October, which will save an estimated 10 million plastic bags.
All this really got me thinking about my own habits and how much I’m contributing to the problem.
I like to think that I’m a conscious consumer. I try to bring a reusable bag to the supermarket, I buy bamboo toilet paper, and have recently started using biodegradable trash bags. Of course, I also recycle whenever possible.
So, I decided to track how much single-use disposable plastic I use for a week. Let’s just say the results weren’t pretty and I wasn’t feeling so smug by the end of it.
- 8.15 am: I get my daily coffee from the café. I usually bring my own coffee tumbler, so I get 50 cents off.
- 9.30 am: I have yogurt for breakfast every day. I buy huge tubs that last me about a week or two and keep them in our communal fridge at the office. It’s cheaper than individual packs and it also means less plastic waste!
- 4.30 pm: I am starving and get myself a mid-day snack of rock melon at the food court. She gives it to me in a plastic bag. I cringe but there’s no alternative.
- 3.20 pm: It’s incredibly hot today and I’m craving iced coffee, but my tumbler is too small for iced drinks. I succumb to temptation. It comes in a large disposable plastic cup, but I have my own metal straw (a small consolation).
- 7.45 pm: I pick up economy rice from the hawker centre next to my house. I pass the guy my own glass Tupperware to fill. He doesn’t bat an eyelid.
- 12.30 pm: I have a lunch meeting, so I get takeaway – salad and soup. More plastic.
- 8 pm: I’m too lazy to cook so I treat myself to Deliveroo. The food comes in three takeaway containers but at least they used a paper bag. I wash them, so they can be reused for keeping snacks and eventually be recycled. One of them is greasy and unsalvageable, so I give up and bin it.
- 12.45 pm: I’ve already emptied my recyclables into the recycling bin this morning. I bring yesterday’s leftovers to work in one of my own reusable Tupperware.
- 9.30 am: I’ve run out of yogurt at the office, so I grab a ready yogurt and granola from the cafe. It comes in a disposable plastic container. I look around sheepishly. There’s no dine-in option without plastic. At least I’m using my own cutlery.
- 1 pm: I decide to get an impromptu bubble tea on the way back to the office from lunch. That’s two extra pieces of plastic.
- 8.10 am: I head to the wet market to for my weekly grocery shopping. I bring my reusable tote. Most of the vegetables are fine, but the strawberries, herbs and tomatoes are pre-packed. The meat and seafood also come in plastic bags. Unavoidable as I don’t want my reusable tote bag to be covered in blood and fish juice.
Side note: I’m totally pro-wet market because I think it’s cheaper than the supermarket.
- 10.40 am: I decide to have green tea instead of coffee. I’m not feeling so hot after yesterday’s night out. Turns out, lots of tea bags actually contain plastic to keep them from falling apart.
- 12.15 pm: I’m on my way to meet a friend for lunch. I feel extra dehydrated and buy a bottle of water from 7-11. Oops.
Total plastic count:
- 4 Plastic bags
- 2 Plastic cups
- 1 Plastic straws
- 3 Plastic food packaging boxes
- 5 Plastic takeaway boxes
All in all, it was definitely an eye-opening experience for me to see how much plastic I used in a week. I really felt like I tried my best, there was lots of room for improvement.
While it’s almost impossible to go ‘zero waste’, there are some simple tips that can make a significant difference.
Here are some super easy ways to reduce your plastic waste.
- Bring your own tote bag when shopping and a water bottle when you leave the house.
- Skip the individual plastic bags and avoid pre-packed fruit and vegetables since you’re going to wash them anyway.
- Try and buy ‘bulk’ instead of individual packs – it’s at least 5 percent cheaper too. I also buy large refills of soap and detergent.
- Keep an eco-starter kit at the office. You can consider a reusable bottle/tumbler and food container, metal straw and cutlery and tote bag.
- If you have to, reuse or repurpose single-use plastics where you can. I use old takeaway containers to store snacks and to organise my stuff.