Your team came up with many ideas like a No-Disposables campaign in Raffles Place and banning plastic bags at a mall. How did it end up as a Chinese New Year container donation drive?
After every Chinese New Year, each household discards a number of containers even though they are still in good condition. Initially, I tried to approach established bakeries but was rejected due to hygiene concerns. So I turned to home-bakers instead. I reached out to them using the app Hcook, a Singapore-based app that lets home-cooks sell their food to the public.
To assure them that the containers were clean, I promised them that I would wash them at home and told them how I was washing them. The container collection drives were very successful and soon there were too many containers to wash before distribution. We then had to ask the home-bakers if they were agreeable to receiving unwashed containers and thankfully most of them were supportive and understanding about it.
You walk the talk by not using tissue paper, eating less meat and bringing your own containers to buy food. What inspired the next step to start Project bECOme?
I am very disturbed by how commonplace the use of disposables is in Singapore – we use takeaway boxes, disposable cups and plastic bags all the time. Many of us use them without a second thought, even when the use of these item bring severe and far-reaching consequences to our environment.
The plastic we use for 30 minutes or less lasts a thousand years. At the rate we are producing waste, it is a fact that our landfill will fill up by 2035. Will our children have space then to dump their trash, or do they have to live among trash? I believe that the effort we take to bring our own tumblers and lunchboxes is nothing compared to the problems we will face in the future if our habits of using disposables do not change. It is just a matter of habit and heart.
Why did you choose to approach the problem from a ground-up manner?
My vision is to change consumers’ behaviour, which will eventually transform business practices. I believe that being eco-friendly is a lifestyle choice. I want them to understand the importance of their eco-friendly acts, so that they will be happy to do so.
Avoiding disposables, for instance, is not something that we should see as a chore. It is something we ought to believe in and feel proud of.That said, I also see the importance of regulations and government policies. Top-down and bottom-up approaches have to be adopted at the same time for maximum impact.