The SMF is honoured to host the Singapore Packaging Agreement Awards 2020 on 24 March 2021. Organised by the National Environment Agency, the awards saw a total of 15 signatories recognised for their notable achievements in reducing packaging waste and for their contribution towards a more sustainable future.
(From left, top row): Mr Luke Goh (CEO, NEA) Mr Lawrence Pek (Secretary-General, SMF). (From left, bottom row): Ms Betty Tan (Chairperson, Packaging Partnership Programme Advisory Committee), Ms Grace Fu (Minister for Sustainability and the Environment) and Mr Douglas Foo (President, SMF).
During the award ceremony, SMF President Mr Douglas Foo commented during his welcome address that “environmental sustainability should be the bedrock consideration for every society.” While in her opening remarks, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Ms Grace Fuspoke of the recent national movement – the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which strengthens Singapore’s efforts in sustainable development. Under the Green Plan, Singapore will front-load its waste reduction efforts to divert waste from the landfill and aim for a 20 per cent reduction by 2026. She also shared the Government’s plan to implement GreenGov.SG, a public service initiative that will embed environmental sustainability in its core business areas such as green procurement to catalyse green practices in the economy.
As packaging waste constitutes about one-third of Singapore’s domestic waste, one of the early efforts to deal with packaging waste is the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) where “Close to 250 companies have signed the agreement, and have collectively reduced 62,000 tonnes of packaging waste, saving $150 million in packaging material costs. These are substantial accomplishments which would not have been possible without the support of the companies under the SPA”, said Minister Fu. The Minister then presented the SPA Awards to the signatories to recognise their notable achievements in reducing packaging waste and for their contribution towards a more sustainable future. Former Governing Board members of the SPA were also recognised for their contributions to the SPA.
Ms Loh Su Kim from Resorts World Singapore took the Top Achievement Award, which was presented by Minister Fu.
Launch of the Packaging Partnership Programme and Inaugural Conference
Together with NEA and SMF, Minister Fu officially launched the Packaging Partnership Programme (PPP) as well as held the inaugural PPP Conference after the award ceremony. The PPP is a new industry-led initiative by the SMF, in partnership with the NEA, which aims at developing industry capability in the sustainable management of packaging waste. With the official launch, the PPP will take on the SPA’s mantle of bringing various organisations together to drive the sustainable management of packaging waste in Singapore.
During the launch, Chairperson of the PPP Advisory Committee Ms Betty Tan shared the works that the PPP had done prior to the launch, including workshops and trainings that were beneficial to companies embarking on their Journey towards Zero Waste. More importantly, these sessions helped companies to better understand their Mandatory Packaging Reporting (MPR) obligations. The PPP will continue to organise workshops and training sessions for members to share and exchange best practices and updated information on the sustainable management of packaging waste.
The hybrid PPP Conference was then held with speakers from different parts of the world coming together virtually to share insights on packaging sustainability. Themed “Sustainable Packaging for Our Shared Future”, participants at the conference had the privilege to hear from esteemed experts in the area of sustainable packaging - President of the World Packaging Organisation Professor Pierre Pienaar;Deputy Executive Director of Global Compact Network Singapore Dr Ryal Wun; and, Head of Business Builder, Circular Economy Solutions at Borouge Mr Pratyush Bandyopadhyay.
Professor Pienaar gave an overview of the global perspective towards sustainable packaging. He highlighted the challenge of advocating environmental sustainability with the affordable and convenient attributes of plastics that most people were dependent on for their everyday life. On top of a low recycling rate, alternative materials were unsuitable substitutes for plastics as such materials can have an even bigger environmental impacts compared to plastics. With new recycling technologies coupled with waste management regulations, goals setting and education, Professor Pienaar viewed that our sustainable packaging efforts would go a long way.
Dr Ryal Wun touched on the need for innovation in packaging to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, without compromising their protective purpose. Dr Wun went on to share various innovations in sustainable packaging. One example was edible packaging, which could be made out of food and natural plant-based polymers. Although this is not new, there is a mental barrier to overcome. Dr Wun then shared the Frustration Free Packaging (FFP) programme by Amazon that minimises waste for their e-commerce operations.
Mr Pratyush Bandyopadhyay, presented on the idea of achieving circularity through advanced packaging, and the importance for packaging design to meet the recyclability requirement. He shared Borouge’s current technology, which includes a full PE lamination packaging solution that allows for post-consumer recycling. Borouge is also focusing on renewable feedstock, which is the usage food waste biomass to replace fossil feedstock in the production of plastics. Mr Bandyopadhyay also reiterated the need for a concerted effort among stakeholders in the plastics value chain to attain a closed loop solution.
The speakers then participated in a panel discussion, moderated by Mr Matt Kovac, Deputy Chairperson of the PPP Advisory Committee and Executive Director of Food Industry Asia (FIA).
Panel Discussion during the PPP conference
Panel members brought up several interesting points in the discussion, centred around regulations, material substitutions, and changing consumer behaviour.
Concerning the need for a standardised approach to packaging, the speakers brought up the European Union (EU)’s packaging guidelines to ensure recycling of packaging waste. There is a need for uniformity in this aspect. However, as different jurisdictions operate in different ways, it will take time for everyone to achieve the desired result.
On the issue of banning single-use plastics, the speakers shared that bans do not change the situation, as disposables are required in the everyday life, and there are no suitable alternatives that has minimal environmental impact. While some disposable plastics could be recycled, waste management was an issue. There was a need to address the underlying cause rather than simply treating the symptoms.
In terms of changing consumer behaviour, besides education, the speakers discussed reducing the use of plastics and virgin polymers in packaging while increasing the use of recyclates. Simultaneously, vending machines could be used to build infrastructure for brands while avoiding packaging. This sparked a discussion about the Extended Producer's Responsibility, in which both consumers and producers were held more accountable.
Finally, the panel highlighted that current technology already allows for the replacement of more than 80% of multi-layer flexible plastics on the market with mono-material substitutes, allowing for recycling.
The conference was an insightful experience for many, with points shared by experts in the field of packaging and its relevant industry. The PPP looks forward to continuing to grow from strength to strength.