Food Wastage in Singapore

Hands holding food waste found in a garbage bin

Singaporeans are unequivocally tied to our love of food. Having a nice dinner tops the list when asked to pick our favourite simple pleasure from a comprehensive list of pleasures. However, Singapore’s food wastage is profoundly alarming despite our love for food.

Food wastage makes up a significant bulk of Singapore’s waste streams. As of 2020, food wastage was ranked 5th among 14 other waste types. Despite a decrease in food wastage from 2019 to 2020, our recycling rate remains at a meagre 19%. When we dispose of food, not only do we waste the precious resources in our already resource-scarce Singapore, we put a significant strain on our waste disposal facilities. According to the National Environmental Agency (NEA), our present waste disposal rate will require us to build a new Waste to Energy plant every 7 to 10 years, of which Singapore simply does not have the space for.

Hence, eradicating food wastage in Singapore is urgent and of utmost importance. So with that, let’s take a closer look at Singapore’s food wastage problem.

Who is Responsible for It

Photo collage of a food processing facility, supermarket and a kitchen

There are 3 primary contributors to food wastage – food industries, retailers, and consumers. Starting with food industries, a study done by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) found that a jaw-dropping 342 000 tonnes of food were lost before it had the chance to hit the shelves. Further investigation revealed that excessive cosmetic filtering, poor storage and production practises, and inadequate pest management significantly exacerbated food wastage in Singapore.

However, households are not spared. A household waste study done by the NEA found that food wastage contributed to almost half of the daily household waste disposed of, of which more than half of the food waste could have been avoided. 1 in 4 Singaporeans are guilty of discarding spoilt or expired food due to the tendency to order, purchase and cook in large quantities.

What is Being Done About It

4-tiered food waste hierarchy: to prevent and reduce food wastage at source, redistribute unsold/excess food, recycle/treat food waste and recover energy

Presently, Singapore employs a food waste management hierarchy as shown above. Unquestionably, the prevention and reduction of food wastage at the top of the supply chain are of utmost importance. Two major legislations were drafted for this purpose. As of 2021, developers of potential contributors to large amounts of food waste are obligated to designate a space for on-site food waste treatment. Subsequently in 2024, all major commercial and industrial food waste generators will have to segregate their food waste for treatment.

The war against food wastage has also expanded to the community. In addition to the various collaborations with Community Development Councils and grassroots leaders, there have been notable efforts to educate the public on food wastage and their role in reducing food wastage. That said, we should not forget community-led efforts by outstanding individuals and organisations to fight food wastage.


Two hands which form a heart as it holds a handful of grains

To love is to value – it is time for Singaporeans to extend their love for food and value it as a precious resource that we should not mindlessly dispose of. Indeed, fighting food wastage in Singapore is an uphill battle. But together, we can climb our way to victory.

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