PwC employees started 2020 with a new green resolution: the firm is the first in Singapore to provide its employees access to a pioneer ECO takeaway service in a bid to reduce single-use lunch packaging.
PwC is the first tier-one corporate in Singapore to offer its staff a zero-waste office lifestyle by joining barePack, an SG-based platform that allows its members to take-out their food in reusable containers instead of disposable packaging.
Why does eco-friendly takeaway matter?
The takeaway lunch is an intrinsic part of Singapore’s DNA. It’s embedded in the city’s history and diverse culture, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Because where else in the world can you find a dozen delicious food destinations in a single food court or hawker centre? But our wide variety of affordable takeaway options comes at a cost, for both our health and our planet.
According to a report by CIEL (Centre for International Environmental Law), chemicals migrating from food packaging and other food-contact materials can be harmful even at very low doses, and increase with each reuse they were never designed for. And while SG’s recycling rate of construction materials is world-class, it’s left lacking when it comes to plastic recycling. Domestic waste, of which over a third is packaging (predominantly SUPs) is on the rise. At the same time, plastic recycling rates are declining with the all-time recorded low of 4% in 2018 down from 6% the previous year (NEA Statistics). Why the concern? Because Semakau, the country’s only island landfill, is going to reach full capacity 15 years ahead of its intended plan, receiving an estimated 200,000 tonnes of solid waste and ash annually.
So what can we do? Make a difference by taking a #littlegreenstep to encourage your organisation to follow in PwC’s footsteps, and make your lunch breaks both healthier for you and kinder to our planet. Here’re five ways your office can make a difference.
1. Launch a green lunch challenge at your office
Forego disposables altogether by bringing your lunch box when you take out and subscribe to the barePack service that provides the reusable AVA and FDA approved containers when you forget or can’t bring your own. The barePack app lets you order a reusable container instead of single-use across multiple locations in the CBD. It can even track individual usage for some friendly competition within the office. You could also plan a prize for the greenest team in the company.
2. Promote sustainable meeting rooms
Single-use water bottles are the ultimate wasteful commodity. Especially in Singapore, where we have perfectly safe drinking water from the tap. It’s recently been reported that more water is used to create a bottle of water than it contains. Does that make any sense when water shortages are a real threat? Grab some water pitchers and stainless steel cups for every meeting room and say goodbye to the bins that only ever get filled with half-used bottles. You’ll save on bin liners, bottles, cut costs and switch housekeeping chores from throwing out rubbish to rinsing out a couple of glasses. And if you don’t like the taste of tap water, grab a water filter.
3. Redesign the pantry
It’s likely that your office still provides stirrers, coffee cups and packaged sandwiches at its coffee shop. Write a list of all the items that have disposable packaging and brainstorm what can be swapped for something reusable or, at the very least, is recyclable. Firstly, think to reduce – do we need this (are stirrers and paper napkins essential?). Secondly, remember to replace – ask yourself how long items last and how is it made (cotton towels over virgin napkins) or can it serve multiple purposes (reusable pods for tea and coffee).
4. Make a bag sharing tree
It’s estimated that we consume 160,000 plastic bags every second worldwide. While it’s super easy to bring your own bag, it’s as easy to forget to have one handy when you need it! And yet, you’ve likely got an array of reusable bags from fairs or supermarkets all lying at home. Get everyone to bring them in, and create a dedicated bag sharing zone, either using a large storage box or a coat tree, so that there’s always a bag handy for when you leave the office. Just remember to bring them back and keep them clean for everyone to share.
5. Organise a day on the field to connect the dots
At times it’s challenging to grasp the extent of our collective individual impact on the environment. And it can be hard to get colleagues onboard without a little reality check. Organise a beach clean up with your colleagues and spend a day collecting plastic from our beaches for the message to hit home. According to the U.N Environment, seven in nine items of the most common plastic waste found in the environment are from takeaway and food packaging: plastic drinking bottles, caps and plastic lids, food wrappers, straws, stirrers and styrofoam takeaway containers, plastic bottles and cutlery. Or if you have a sporty team, organise a morning “plog”: picking up trash while you jog.
At the crossroads of tech and tradition, you’ll find barePack
Street food is a tradition steeped in history and is an intrinsic part of Singaporean cultural identity. Food from all over SouthEast Asia and India, from wontons and laksa to rojak and daal, are enjoyed from street stalls at all times of the day. But our long working days, stressful corporate jobs, increasing population and expectations for immediate service generates a lot of takeaway packaging waste in the city.
In a bid to provide a more sustainable way to enjoy the foodie culture, barePack invites you to download the barePack app for iOS and Android phones. Once subscribed, you can enjoy being served in reusable containers at any cafe or restaurant in the network via a simple QR code scan. No more excuse for disposables or being lazy – use the app to drop off used containers and get them washed in the network.
You can find barePack’s cool cups and lunchboxes at several participating vendors around Marina One, Marina Bay Link Mall, Asia Square and various other locations. Find out more on www.barepack.co or write to them at [email protected].