Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling & Rot

Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling & Rot

In May 2020, Channel NewsAsia reported that Singaporeans use an average of 452 plastic bags per year. This works out to a national figure of 2.5 billion plastic bags used just in Singapore. Despite the calls-to-action from environmentalist groups and government agencies to reduce the use of single-use disposables, these products are still used widely by Singaporeans for their convenience and affordability. This presents a worrying problem as most single-use material end up being disposed in rubbish bins before they are transported to waste-to-energy plants for incineration, i.e., Semakau Landfill.

Besides waiting on legislative and corporate action by the government and businesses respectively in tackling the problem of single-use material, here are five options an individual consumer can take to minimise the negative effects of using single-use materials.

  1. Refuse – Say no when offered single-use 

Ever heard of the adage “if you don’t drive to drink, you won’t drink and drive”? The same can be said of single-use materials! if you do not accept single-use material, then you will never have fret over what to do after using them. BYO, such as reusable food bags or containers, cutlery, and bags.

  1. Reduce – Prepare your shopping list when going marketing or grocery shopping

The Singapore Environment Council, in a paper published in 2019, found that on average, Singaporeans throw away an average of 68.4 kg of food waste per person per year, or 342,000 tonnes of food waste in totality every year.

Instead of buying on impulse, stick to your list and buy only what you will consume. Avoid the pitfall of marketing promotions unless you do consume them on a regular basis and doesn’t mind consuming them beyond its used by date, do exercise caution for fresh food and discard ‘sensitive’ food such as milk and meat.

This can be applied to everything we buy/use, from delivery, apparel to electronic gadgets etc.  Reduce the purchase frequency save you money as well.

  1. Reuse – Repurpose your plastic bags; they are more versatile than you think!

Plastic bags can also be used for a whole range of other purposes besides carrying groceries and light purchases. They can be used to contain rubbish in the house or in the car; wrap shoes and bags before long-term storage; or to maintain the shape of footwear in the shoe cabinet.

There are also lots of repurpose ideals on the web, just google for example “repurpose light bulbs” and you will be amazed.

  1. Repair & Recycling – Fix stuff before buying replacements or tossing them away

Technological inventions and gadgets have undisputedly enhanced our way-of-life by making it much easier to accomplish previously complex tasks. However, when these machines and gadgets breakdown, we often find that our first instinct is to dispose of them and purchase a replacement almost immediately. Instead of giving in to the habit of replacing these devices, consider sending them for repair especially if it remains cost-effective and -efficient!

The same can be said of household furniture products and clothing apparel. Waste can be greatly reduced when we choose to fix our broken or damaged belongings in the pursuit of greater sustainability.

If Repair is not feasible, follow these links to find out more about programmes that support refurbishment in the pursuit of environmentally friendly practices!

NEA Cash-for-Trash stations: deposit recyclables in exchange for cash

If repairing is not feasible, check if they can be recycled. You may also refer to this table here to learn more about what can be disposed into the blue recycling bins in Singapore. Do note that all materials, including plastic, must be cleaned and free of foreign residue before they can be treated at recycling plants? So go ahead and give plastic meant for recycling a quick rinse before throwing them into the recycling bins. It might seem inconvenient initially, but such actions can go a long way!

NEA e-Waste disposal: learn more about recycling e-waste in a safe and environmentally conscious manner

  1. Rot – Composting to give a second life to trash

Last by not least, if we consume only what we need, we will be left with a very small amount of waste. Of these, food scraps can be composted, further reducing the amount of waste that goes into the rubbish bin. Compost can be used for your gardening or to anyone or the community garden who needs them. Getting started is easy, find out more on compost bin here.

Unpackt encourages our customers to bring your own bags when shopping in our flagship store. Happy shopping!



Go, C. (2021, May 10). Singapore will account for local practices when studying charges for disposable plastic bags. CNA.

National Environment Agency. (2019, June 4). Types of Recyclables and Recycling Processes. 3R Programmes and Resources.

Singapore Environment Council. (2018). (working paper). Consumer Plastic and Plastic Resource Ecosystem in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Environment Council.

Image: Singapore Environment Council

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