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Over 270 food and beverage (F&B) outlets in Singapore will phase out plastic straws by 1 July 2019, in a major industry push to reduce the use of plastic disposables. As part of PACT (Plastic ACTion), a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) initiative supported by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Zero Waste SG, the F&B outlets will remove straws completely from their premises or provide them only on request.
Industry-wide efforts by businesses can contribute to reducing the excessive use of plastics. A recent survey found that 62% of people in Singapore use plastic straws only because they come with a purchased drink.
“Driven by a wave of consumer support, businesses have taken the first action to remove straws. This is a tangible first step and a strong signal that they are starting to take responsibility for the plastics that they use. This is a great example of voluntary action by businesses, and while we work with the group on next steps, we encourage more brands to join the effort,” said Kim Stengert, Chief, Strategic Communication and External Relations, WWF-Singapore.
The potential impact of ocean plastic pollution on human health, economies and livelihoods, the use of fossil fuels in the plastics industry and limited space in the Semakau Landfill is driving the urgent call to reduce plastic waste and establish a circular economy for the material.
A YouGov survey commissioned by WWF showed that 9 out of 10 people recognise the environmental problems caused by disposable plastic. Those surveyed also flagged the F&B (76%) and food retail (71%) sectors as the biggest sources of disposable plastic in Singapore.
Said Pek Hai Lin, Manager of Zero Waste SG, “Local support to reduce unnecessary plastics has grown in tandem with awareness about the environmental impact of plastic disposables. With more people now opting to bring their own reusable containers, bags or straws, we hope to see the movement encourage businesses to reduce other single-use plastic disposables too.”
After 1 July 2019, businesses part of this commitment will not provide straws to customers unless on request or for specific medical reasons.
Straws are a starting point in the move to reducing overall use of plastics by businesses. WWF and Zero Waste SG will continue to work with the F&B industry to reduce unnecessary plastics such as stirrers, cutlery and plastic bottles while working on measures and innovations to tackle the plastic problem.
According to WWF, addressing the use of plastics by businesses is key to addressing the crisis as 80% of plastics in the ocean are believed to come from land sources. It is estimated that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight, with potential implications on human health and wellbeing. Microplastics have been found in the gut of one out of four fish, in tap water samples and even in air pollution.
WWF launched PACT earlier this year, a business coalition that has since grown to 15 companies committed to large-scale industry collaboration and ambitious measures for a circular economy on plastics. Companies will start with the removal of unnecessary plastics, while reviewing product design, switching to sustainable alternatives or contributing to end-use markets. Business interested to find out more about PACT can reach out to WWF at wwf.sg/pact.