Following Cherian’s “So, do it!” advice, we planned our household waste collection in Serangoon and Sembawang, our areas of residence.
As with every other task, this took us longer than expected. After two days of logistical planning and shopping, we were finally ready to trawled our own estates, pound on doors and collect a day’s worth of food waste from the neighbours we barely knew.
- letter of authorisation endorsed by Dr KC Yeoh
- logbook to record households’ particulars (name, age, address, household size, type of waste)
- standard sized red plastic bags for each family to store their food waste
- survey forms for every household (on shopping, dining, cooking and storing habits)
- lanyard with NTU student matriculation card
With matriculation cards dangling visibly from our necks and summoning our most needy looking faces, we yielded an average of 15 successful replies in an hour. Weekday evenings from 8 to 10pm proved to be the prime time, though the success rate was hampered by those who ate out, did not cook or insisted they had no waste.
Seriously, chicken bones and apple seeds were considered waste and I’m pretty sure a normal person wouldn’t find joy in eating it.
Now, (*drumroll*) for the TOP FIVE MOST RIDICULOUS RESPONSES we got:
1. “If I say yes, will you go out with my son?” – a middle-aged man who was desperately trying to promote his extremely undate-able son
2. “Sorry, the dogs ate up the remaining food today.” – the undate-able son
3. “Will you be coming again tomorrow?” – a maid who thought she found private food waste collectors for free. Fat chance, lady
4. “How would I know you’re not lying?” – a sceptical man who assumed we were nothing more than pranksters
5. “What if you don’t keep your word?” – another sceptical, overweight man who, in fact, had two times more waste than the average household
Despite these strange encounters, I’m now able to identify my neighbours besides those on my left and right.
It was insanely difficult to justify that food wastage is a problem in Singapore. Then, an epiphany came in the form of Estelle’s mom’s wise words. “If you want to find out how much food an individual wastes, why not you collect food waste from door to door?” she said.
So we did. Approaching over 180 households during our December holidays. While our friends were having their holiday or interviewing sources, we were out approaching families and asking to collect their food waste.
Most of the time, people case us strange looks when we said we wanted their food waste. But we got used to it after a while. There were a few times we received offers from families who said we could collect and clear their food waste every day. Talk about being degraded from undergrads to waste collectors. =(
Approaching families and convincing them to participate in our food waste exercise is one problem. Another challenge is to return back to the household, collect and briefly analyse their food waste. It was UTTERLY GROSS. The stench and the sight of food waste could make me puke out what I’d for dinner earlier. Nobody would ever understand the trouble and humiliation we went through to do our FYP. And collecting food waste is just a tiny aspect of the project.
Estelle and me enjoyed better luck in getting households to participate in the household waste exercise. As for Wei Li, doors usually get shut on him as he looks more menacing than a pitiful young girl who is trying to collect food waste for her project. Since Wei Li had a harder time convincing families to give us their food waste, we ended up delegating the work such that Estelle and I would approach families while he would collect, analyse and weigh food waste for us. Yayness! The dirty job goes to the dude for a very good reason. =P