WWF-Singapore unveils online tool for assessing plastic alternatives

The tool helps businesses navigate complex environmental trade-offs in selecting materials.

A NEW Web tool by the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore (WWF-Singapore) will help businesses simplify the process of assessing and selecting alternatives to plastic packaging.

The Alternative Materials Tool (AMT) launched on Thursday was developed to reduce plastic use with more environmentally friendly alternatives, taking into account local waste management systems. It is based on a life-cycle analysis of each material’s environmental impact, from raw material extraction, manufacturing and distribution to consumption and disposal.

Said WWF-Singapore chief executive officer R Raghunathan: “It helps businesses navigate the complex environmental trade-offs by selecting materials used in single-use food and non-food packaging decisions.

“Designed for the food and beverage (F&B) and hospitality sector or even individuals who wish to learn more about the impact of various materials, we hope the AMT will drive the industry to make more conscious decisions on single-use packaging, should reusables not be an option.”

To use the tool, users answer a set of questions including a few about the characteristics they require for their packaging, and one about the country where it will be used. Currently, the tool covers use in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand.

The AMT then generates a list of recommended materials, ranked by most to least environmentally friendly. The score for each material is based on a combination of factors such as packaging type, size, functions and country of use. Users can read an explanation of each material’s environmental impact and see how materials compare against one another on attributes such as toxicity, circularity and littering potential.

Mono-material packaging tends to be a better option than packaging made of mixed materials due to higher recyclability, and recycled material has a lower environmental footprint than the virgin material. For instance, recycled paper and recycled plastic for bags are ranked higher than their virgin counterparts by the AMT.

WWF-Singapore added that higher demand from businesses for recycled plastics in packaging will help ensure that plastics are recycled into value-added products, and underscore the importance of dedicated local recycling facilities in Singapore.

Styrofoam is the least recommended material, as it cannot be recycled and has a higher environmental footprint during production than other fossil fuel-based products.

Andrew Cameron, head of procurement at Accor Hotels Singapore, said the AMT will help the hotel chain gain a fuller understanding of the upstream and downstream impacts of the materials it purchases. “Through this, we intend to work with our suppliers, government and the broader industry to continuously improve our best practices to close the loop and eliminate plastics in nature,” he said.

foodpanda Singapore’s marketing and sustainability director Laura Kantor said the tool will help the delivery provider and its F&B partners shortlist eco-friendly alternatives to single-use packaging more easily.

She said: “I truly believe that education is key in accelerating our journey to become a zero-waste nation, and the availability of a ready toolkit that can be easily accessed definitely boosts our collective efforts in reducing plastic waste.”

WWF-Singapore will hold a free webinar on Sept 29 to officially launch and demonstrate the tool, as well as to debunk common misconceptions about packaging for business applications. Registration for the webinar and access to the AMT are both available here