Fighting food waste in Singapore: ‘No brainer’ tracking tech and first standard unveiled

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Jonathan Low, scientist at A*STAR, SIMTech, introduced the ‘toolkit’, a smart system to aid food manufacturers and processors to implement food waste management: Food Wise.
Dr Jonathan Low, scientist at A*STAR, SIMTech, introduced the ‘toolkit’, a smart system to aid food manufacturers and processors to implement food waste management: Food Wise.
Singapore has launched its first standard for manufacturers and processors to manage food waste, along with new software to track and trace production inefficiencies, as part of its fight to reduce the 800,000 tonnes of food that is discarded each year.

The Singapore Standard (SS) 633: 2017, was launched by the Food Standards Committee (FSC) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore generated more than 800,000 tonnes of food waste last year, around 140kg of food per person.

Khoo Seow Poh, deputy CEO of NEA, said food waste in Singapore has increased by about 40% in the past 10 years. This is expected to further increase due to the population’s rising affluence.

Chong Nyet Chin, director of Food Safety and Quality of NTUC Fairprice Co-op Ltd and Chair of the Processing & Distribution Food Standards Committee (FSC), said, at the current rate, Singapore will need a new incineration plant every seven to 10 years, and a new landfill every 30 to 35 years.

Currently, only 16% of food waste in the country is recycled.

Wong Mong Hong, immediate past president of the Singapore Food Manufacturers Association, said food waste is generated throughout the whole food value chain, including farming, post-harvest processing, manufacturing, warehousing, transportation, trading, distribution, retail and consumption.

“If the problem of food waste remains unresolved, the food industry sustainability will be disrupted, the costs of production increased and the product competitiveness impaired,” ​said Wong.

Khoo said the national recycling target of 70% by 2030 requires the participation of all stakeholders, including food manufacturers and processors.

As such, the FSC had formed a Working Group to formulate the Singapore Standard to help food manufacturers identify, reduce, quantify and treat food waste.

The new standard

The new SS633: 2017 standard is meant to help reduce food waste and to improve food manufacturing practices and competitiveness through more efficient use of food resources in the production or planning process.

The comprehensive standard takes into consideration both food loss and food waste, encompassing overproduction, expiration, spoilage, overcooked items, contaminated items, and so on.

It also gives recommendations and guidelines for proper food waste management at various stages in the value chain.

Dr Chen Wei Long, convenor of the SS 633 Working Group and director of the Sustainable Manufacturing Centre, A*STAR, SIMTech, said the strategy involved three main routes: If the waste is edible and avoidable, the plan would go back to improving the manufacturing process, right at the top. If it is edible and unavoidable, it would go to determining the change needed in terms of the process design or equipment.

If the waste is inedible for human beings and unavoidable, it will most probably be processed to become feed that is edible for animals.

Easy implementation

Dr Chen said the main industry challenge is the lack of expertise and know-how.

In that vein, Dr Jonathan Low, scientist for Sustainability & Life Cycle Management, A*STAR, SIMTech, introduced the ‘toolkit’, a smart system software to aid food manufacturers and processors to implement food waste management — Food Wise.

This enables the real-time tracking of food waste and auto-alerts on food process inefficiencies or anomalies that will result in increased food waste intensity; on-demand support for planning food waste prevention and diversion measures; and the automation of manual tasks of food waste auditing and reporting.

“This software is user-friendly and a ‘no-brainer’ for the user,” ​said Dr Low.

“Everything can be done for you including the analysis and the tracking of projects.”

While the installation, implementation and training on Food Wise would cost about S$25,000, there is an option for food firms to get assistance from the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

Not only would companies be able to get assistance in staff training, it would also be possible to obtain funding for up to 80% of the cost.

Although the new standard is not compulsory, much effort has been put in to enable easy adoption, and more will be done down the road to encourage food firms to do so.

Dr Chen revealed that a next step is the development of a food waste management standard for food retail establishments.

Recently, Singapore also launched its first organic standard​.

Chong revealed to FoodNavigator-Asia that the working committee is now looking to set up an organic council, hopefully before the end of 2018, to endorse and to further promote the adoption of the new organic standard, including with an official logo.

The SS 633:2017 standard launch was organised by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation-Singapore Standards Development Organisation (SMF-SDO) and SimTech.

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