The Food Waste Recycling Dilemma
The patented technology that IUT Global has applied in its Singapore plant generates approximately eight to nine mega-watts of energy from 600,000 kilos of food waste – enough to power 10,000 five-room Housing Development Board units.
But for that to happen, IUT Global first needs to find enough food waste to feed the plant.
Currently, the plant is working at one-third of its capacity, at around 130,000 kilos a day. It is facing a difficulty in persuading more food-related businesses to go green and send their food waste to the plant for treatment and conversion into bio-energy.
Big businesses are easy to persuade, but the plant is currently facing a challenge in reaching out to individual small-medium food enterprises and food retailers.
The lukewarm reception from smaller food operators towards recycling food waste is not surprising. For one, profit is every company’s bottom line.
“I’ve to pay a high price for food recycling plants to collect my food. Why should I allow myself to get slapped in the face twice? I’m already slapped once by the suppliers,” says chef owner Suresh Devadas, 38, of Spanish-Mexican restaurant El Toro in Orchard Road.
Other food producers, such as Kee Song Brothers Poultry, are not participating in IUT Global’s recycling programme due to cost uncertainty.
NEA and IUT Global introduced a pilot project in December 2009 and currently two markets in the project are segregating food waste for recycling.
However, they realised that the hawkers were more concerned about getting their daily work done than going green. When left unsupervised, the hawkers were found to be disposing their food waste in any bin.
“Recycling is just a sexy term in Singapore,” says Allan Lim, 36, chief executive of Alpha Biofuels. His company collects used cooking oil from food retailers and converts it into bio-diesel.
Businesses in Singapore are just ‘greenwashed’ and are hardly environmentally conscious, says Mr Lim.
His company is facing fierce competition from other collectors of used oil, who pay food retailers for the oil and recycle it for other purposes.
“In the US, people pay to dispose their cooking oil. But in Singapore, it’s the other way round,” he continues. However, vice president of IUT Global, Edward Chen, 42, is more optimistic about the situation and believes in starting small.
For now, IUT Global is working with associations, such as the Singapore Manufacturing Association, which help connect it to small food retailers.
“By roping in these associations, they will be convinced of the need to go green to be sustainable,” says Mr Chen.