SINGAPORE, 20 June 2019 – Over 1.7 million pieces of single-use items have been removed in the preparation process for the National Day Parade (NDP) funpack this year. In a bid to create a more sustainable NDP, the 2019 Logistics and Finance committee worked with Zero Waste SG on the parade’s overall waste reduction efforts.
Every year, with an average of 20 items for the funpack, there are approximately 4 million items being produced and distributed. This is not including single-use packaging, which are products designed to be used once and disposed after. If two- thirds of the products are packaged, there will be a total of more than 6.6 million items.
As such, the question remains: How many items do we actually reuse, and are they used enough to warrant the time, money and energy gone into manufacturing them? If only one-third of the funpack items are reused, more than 4.4 million items will be produced for single-use every year to celebrate Singapore’s birthday.
Questions over the sustainability of the funpack were raised after NDP 2018 by Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng on potential measures being taken to reduce single-use plastics at NDP 2019. In his response, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hean affirmed that the NDP EXCO would continue to work with the National Environmental Agency (NEA) to organise a “clean and sustainable NDP”.1
Despite the efficiency of Singapore’s waste incineration, our only landfill at Pulau Semakau is estimated to be filled by 2035, ten years ahead of which it was initially planned for. Building a new landfill is not only undeniably expensive, but also resource- intensive.
The majority of avoidable waste produced comes from single-use plastic disposables or items. Singapore’s plastic waste generated hit a new high of more than 949 million kilograms in 2018, with only 4 per cent of it being recycled2. Therefore, besides recycling in the right manner, the need to reduce unnecessary waste at source before it reaches the incineration plants is of paramount importance.
It is thus heartening to know of the deliberate efforts made by the 2019 Logistics and Finance committee to consider the reusability of funpack items, as well as packaging that comes with it. This year, repeatedly featured items such as maracas and scarves which have low probability of being reused post-parade are removed. On the other hand, dual-use items such as the reusable bamboo straws doubling up as noise makers during the shows are new additions to the pack.
As with most NDPs conducted at the Padang, the parade is expected to give out approximately 25,000 bags at every show.
In addition to the above waste reduction initiatives, the committee will also be setting up bins for the return of clean, unused ponchos and LED wristbands alongside general waste disposal. Heartware volunteers will be trained by Zero Waste SG to facilitate the proper return of items by members of the public after each show.
While there are positive changes made to NDP 2019, there are still unavoidable usages of single-use plastic packaging due to security and safety concerns. For instance, while security does not disallow spectators from bringing in their own water bottles, it is also not publicly encouraged due to potentially complicating security checks.
Since the threat of liquid explosives surfaced in 2006, global security measures have been heightened in places with high human traffic, such as airports.3 Unfortunately, until such time that the threat is no longer an issue, the funpack will continue to provide bottled water for the parades.
Furthermore, in a bid to encourage the audience to dispose of waste considerately instead of leaving it behind, each funpack will still include a plastic bag for bagging waste. This shows that everyone has a part to play to bin their trash at designated points.
Ultimately, the journey to waste reduction at such events is still a work in progress. Future efforts could include design, production and post-parade considerations for costumes and props.
After all, as we celebrate yet another milestone in Singapore’s history, we can show love and appreciation for her, our communities, and ourselves by reducing our waste and prolonging precious landfill space.
This is my country, this is my flag. This is my future, this is my life. This is my family, these are my friends. We are Singapore, Singaporeans.
1 NDP funpack to be more environmentally friendly: Ng Eng Hean. Released 19 November 2018. (https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/ndp-2019-funpack-to-be-more-environmentally- friendly-ng-eng-hen-10946818)
About Zero Waste SG
Zero Waste SG is a non-governmental organisation leading the drive towards zero waste in Singapore through education and advocacy. The organisation focuses on: Food waste, plastic disposables, recycling and organisational waste.
For more information, visit www.zerowastesg.com .
Ms Pek Hai Lin Manager
Zero Waste SG firstname.lastname@example.org