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Mission: Cutting food and fashion waste

Teams taking part in OCBC's 'The Green Pitch' event get funding to scale up their ideas to find new life for Singapore's usable discards.

Sindy Ong (extreme right) from The Clothes Library recently organised a clothes collection exercise with friends (from left) Lui Kai Siang, Chin Jun Wuen and Tan Yin Ling.

Savour! team members Katrina Lee, Sharmayne Lim, Jaryl Lim and Sun Neng.

SINGAPOREANS threw out 7.7 million tonnes of waste last year - enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Of that amount, 636,900 tonnes or 17 per cent came from food, and 205,800 tonnes or 6 per cent from textiles or leather, going by statistics from the National Environment Agency.

With this data in the backdrop, three teams of youth came up with solutions to tackle Singapore's waste culture. They pitched their solutions during OCBC's inaugural The Green Pitch event, which called for innovative but scalable climate-action solutions from the public, and are among five teams that have received a total of S$70,000 from the #OCBCCares Environment Fund to scale their projects.

These teams figure that, by minimising waste, carbon dioxide emissions - the biggest climate changer - will also be reduced.

Two groups, Afoodable and Foodiv, had pitched location-based apps to help F&B companies and food retailers minimise food wastage by notifying consumers of deals on unsold perishables that would otherwise be thrown away.

While Afoodable had the technology know-how, Foodiv had the network contacts. The judges thus suggested that they join forces in the spirit of collaboration.

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This was how Savour! came to be formed, marking the first time two groups of applicants have banded together since 2017, when the #OCBCCares Environment Fund (under which The Green Pitch falls) was set up.

Afoodable, which consists of SUTD students Sharmayne Lim, Jaryl Lim and Sun Neng, had already developed the app and were seeking funding to build the network linking sellers to buyers.

Foodiv, which comprises NUS students Katrina Lee, Grace Lek, Jessie Chia, Keziah Sitinjak and Markus Ng, had started building the network with sellers and buyers and needed funding to build the app.

The teams wanted a platform which connects wholesalers, bakeries and snack stalls with expiring, blemished and surplus food to consumers.

Members of Savour! told The Business Times that there are students, office workers and families who want to buy food at day's end or the next day, and would like to see what is available in the vicinity and go pick it up, but do not want to find out upon getting there that what they want is sold out.

The platform targets 15- to 45-year-olds who use their smartphones for online payment for food, and looks to engage retailers, including mom-and-pop stores and bakeries to sell their unsold perishables, surplus and blemished food that are near their "best before" dates.

Low-income families would also enjoy priority and cheaper deals while enjoying convenience and variety.

Fast fashion waste

Tackling the problem of fashion waste is The Clothes Library by Sindy Ong, a financial consultant and member of The Mother Earth Toastmasters Club who sought funding to promote a sustainable way of upcycling used clothing.

Inspired by the movie The True Cost, she saw the devastating consequences the fashion industry was inflicting on the environment. That being said, the desire for new clothes in new colours and styles continues to persist.

Targeted at women aged 18 to 35, The Clothes Library looks to create a "collective wardrobe" to break the cycle of wearing and throwing in Singapore. Instead, The Clothes Library seeks to encourage the practice of buying, wearing, sharing, swopping, and then donating clothing.

The solution also looks to create options for lower-income women and to build a community of users who promote the wearing of second-hand clothes.

This will culminate in a library of clothes that can be offered for swopping on a subscription basis at affordable prices, particularly for women who are less well off.

The Clothes Library will also look to hire disadvantaged youth and engage lower-income families. The goal is to rescue, sort and share 20,000 pieces of women's clothing and create a community of users.

OCBC commits S$100,000 annually to fund projects like these; between last year and this yar, it has supported 10 projects totalling S$165,000.

At the launch of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund in 2017, OCBC group chief executive Samuel Tsien said the bank wanted to play a part in funding individuals and interest groups who are passionate about environmental sustainability.

Not only does the bank provide funds, it also aids in the process of conception to fulfilment of the ideas. It also wants to encourage community involvement.

Mr Tsien said at the time: "We need the collective drive of as many members of the public as possible to promote passion and engagement among each other, to do what is right for the community, for our environment and, most importantly, for our future."

This year, The Green Pitch was part of Changing Course, an exhibition at the ArtScience Museum at the Marina Bay Sands Singapore featuring the Arctic region, which is on the frontline of climate change.

The event is over, but those with solutions to reduce CO2 emissions can still apply for the #OCBCCares Environment Fund. Applications close on Dec 31.

  • For more information, visit
  • This article is part of a series on climate-change initiatives, supported by OCBC Bank

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