Views From The Top: Reduce , reuse, recycle

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: How are you and/or your organisation doing your part to reduce the global plastic pollution? What's needed to change human behaviour about the use of plastics?

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: How are you and/or your organisation doing your part to reduce the global plastic pollution? What's needed to change human behaviour about the use of plastics?

Pier Luigi Sigismondi
President, Southeast Asia and Australasia

Unilever has committed to ensuring that by 2025 all of our plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable. This is a bold ambition, and one we cannot achieve alone.

Addressing the plastic waste issue is a shared responsibility for government, industry and the public.

Governments are in a powerful position to drive systematic change by putting in place the right incentives for all stakeholders, including producers, retailers and consumers.

We must also look to cultivate cross-industry collaboration. In the coming months, Unilever will be inaugurating a recycling plant in Indonesia which will recycle multi-layer sachets. We are making this breakthrough technology open-source for the industry as we believe a shared problem calls for a shared solution.

To harness the power of technology, we will soon launch a Sustainable Growth Tech hub at Level3, Unilever and Padang & Co's startup ecosystem in Singapore. We hope to facilitate collaboration between startups and industry to uncover new technology and creative business models to tackle Asean's plastic waste issue.

John Bittleston
Founder & Chair
Terrific Mentors International Pte Ltd

WE consciously cut plastic from our consumables whenever possible. Not all plastic goes. We would eliminate more but alternatives are limited, expensive and insecure. ''Plastic lasts'' was true. It has come home to roost. It seemed inconceivable at the outset that oceans would be filled with plastic waste. People were tidier then and careful with their waste so as not to pollute the seas. Now ''my waste is your problem'' prevails. It is symptomatic of so much of today's selfish attitude. We need a medium-term durable product that self-destructs after a given time. When, oh when?

Patricia Reed
Reed Estate

THE onus of reducing plastic needs to be held at the manufacturer and retailer levels. As a consumer, I use my reusable shopping bag, avoid disposable cups at coffee shops, and try to remember to ask for no straw in my margarita. Retailers such as Ikea took the lead, and stopped giving bags, charged for them, and they are doing better than ever. Why are other retailers so cowardly and complacent in doing the same - particularly grocery stores? Plastic-wrapped produce abounds. Corporations have the shared responsibility, which means everyone can say ''not my fault''. Corporations need to show leadership and moral courage.

Peter Meinshausen
Evonik Asia Pacific South

SUSTAINABILITY is a key aspect of our corporate social responsibility at Evonik, and we are committed to driving this agenda forward. As a global speciality chemicals company, we believe that sustainability starts with the implementation of well-defined policies and initiatives to constantly optimise processes and utilise resources more efficiently. Most importantly, we combine our customers' inputs with our research and development (R&D) expertise to create sustainable products and solutions for the future. For example, at our newly opened research hub in Singapore, we focus on functional surfaces and additive manufacturing to develop materials that are geared towards sustainability and resource efficiency.

Nirvik Singh
Chairman & CEO, Grey Group, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa
Grey Group

THE world produces over one trillion plastic bags every year, the majority of these are for single use and dumped into landfill and oceans. This has become a major worldwide concern.

We would need to educate, encourage and make people aware on how to reduce the use of plastic, wherever possible.

As a communications company, we can help our clients find unique and interesting ways on how we can all make a difference. For example, a recent campaign designed by Grey Group in Malaysia helped Tesco launch The Unforgettable Bag. Grey KL came up with the concept of integrating a barcode into the design as a means of urging customers to re-use the bag. On re-using the bag, customers will get a rebate on their bill. Each of the bag designs is inspired by marine animals most at risk in Asian waters. So it is a great way of bringing awareness to consumers and also making every Tesco shopper a custodian of nature. Successful communications effects behavioral change; and in this particular instance, we believe that it has started moving the conversation in the right direction. The campaign has received worldwide attention.

Christian Rojkjaer
Managing Director
Ikea Southeast Asia

IKEA tackles the problem on every front: product developers reuse waste plastics to make beautiful furniture, we recycle 70 per cent of the waste generated in our retail business and, most importantly, we carry products to inspire and enable millions of customers to live a more sustainable everyday life at home.

Last year, Ikea Singapore diverted 94 tonnes of plastic waste from landfills by sending old shrink wrap, used bottles and other plastics for recycling. We were also the first retailer to eliminate plastic bags. We donated our savings to World Wildlife Fund's Eco Schools programme, helping to motivate a new generation to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Seah Kian Peng
Chief Executive Officer
NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd

LET us not kid ourselves - we all have to be more responsible and do more than just talk if we are serious about caring for the environment and building a green and sustainable Earth. At NTUC FairPrice, we have taken affirmative action to reduce plastic use such as the FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme, which looks to inculcate bring-your-own-bag shopping habits. Through this holistic initiative, implemented more than a decade ago, we provide positive reinforcement and rallied the community to save more than 10 million plastic bags annually - a positive trend that continues to grow year-on-year through sustained and concerted efforts. But for sure, more needs to be done to heighten awareness and acknowledgement of the collective responsibility of all of us to this global and emerging issue.

Thomas Holenia
Henkel Singapore

HENKEL is committed to sustainable packaging and follows the principles of prevention, reduction and recycling. Accordingly, we have used recycled plastic in our packaging for more than 1.2 billion products globally in 2017. We have also partnered social organisations, such as Plastic Bank and Waste Free Oceans, to remove and recycle marine plastic waste, and raise consumer awareness. To change behaviour, there is an overall need for greater education, dialogue and collective actions. For example, by adopting the Bring Your Own Cup initiative, employees of Henkel Singapore will help eliminate the use of 5,000 plastic water bottles annually.

Ivy Lai
Country Manager
Philips Singapore

AT Philips, as well as making the world a healthier place, we want to ensure that everything we do is sustainable. We have implemented a ''circular economy'' programme, which means we use technology to create products and systems in which materials are reused, recycled or remanufactured. For example, we used over 1,850 tonnes of recycled plastic in our products in 2017. Ultimately, we encourage everyone to rethink consumption behaviours from owning products, to sharing or using them in order to reduce resource wastage and pollution.

Alan Watts
President, APAC

INCREASING awareness on sustainable behaviour and focusing on continuous improvement is key to driving positive environmental change. As part of Hilton's commitment to responsible travel and tourism, we believe that waste is a solvable problem. We leverage the innovation and entrepreneurship of our team members, partners and suppliers to review and optimise our operations, including the reduction of waste. As part of our Meet with Purpose programme to offer socially and environmentally responsible meetings, our hotels address plastic pollution by using refillable carafes in place of plastic bottled water, and source as locally and responsibly as possible. We have since eliminated the use of plastic bottled water at all meetings, events, gyms and spas in our properties in China, preventing some 13 million plastic bottles of waste annually.

Sheena Chin
Country Director, Singapore

AT Veritas, we encourage our employees to participate in initiatives such as the recycling programme to deposit waste in the appropriate bins and the One Mug pledge to commit to reducing the usage of disposable plastic cups. The use of plastics is often a small, yet important part of the overall picture. People are not concerned about the usage of plastics as it is affordable and easily available. Awareness, education and imposing costs are key factors that will drive behavioural changes. The choices we make today carry more weight than we can imagine. The sheer realisation that future generations will bear the brunt of our environment legacy, if individuals do not take the first steps towards a fairer and sustainable future, will also make a difference.

Dileep Nair
Independent Director
Thakral Corporation Limited

PLASTICS are both a boon and a bane of our times. Because of their versatility and low cost, plastics have become an integral part of modern society. Yet their safe disposal presents a major challenge. Simply banning or replacing plastics with other materials is misguided since the substitute may require more energy to produce and have a larger carbon footprint. We need to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics as much as possible, by changing human behaviour, choices and actions, and move away from the lazy, throwaway mindset. This starts with us as individuals setting an example at home, at work and elsewhere.

Equally important is how to dispose of plastics responsibly. Innovation must be pursued - note the recently discovered ''plastic-eating'' enzyme. Proper waste management habits must also be inculcated. Sweden recycles 99 per cent of its waste. In Singapore, we recycle only 60 per cent. We can, and should, do more, through public education, incentives, providing nationwide recycling facilities - and persistence.

Matthew Kovac
Executive Director
Food Industry Asia (FIA)

THE debate on plastic pollution may be global, but Asia is where most of the problem lies. The key to tackling it is understanding that both the contributing factors and the solutions differ from country to country.

Food Industry Asia (FIA) represents Asia's food and beverage industry, and we believe that the industry plays an important role in steering collaboration and identifying tailored and fact-based solutions to tackle plastic pollution in the region.

FIA recently commissioned Asia-specific research on plastic waste which identified almost 30 potential levers to stem the problem, and we intend to use this knowledge to drive real change. This starts with us sharing the findings with industry leaders at our Food for the Future Summit on April 26.

Toby Koh
Group Managing Director
Ademco Security Group

AS someone who scuba dives, I see firsthand the effects that plastics have on our oceans and beaches. The amount of plastic waste dumped into our seas is incredible. Bottles, bags, trash and more - I have seen them out in the ocean and 20 m below the surface. Sea creatures, corals, reefs and birds are all affected.

We need more initiatives such as the Plastic Bank that reduces poverty by exchanging plastic waste for cash. Poor people collect plastic waste from the beaches and oceans and ''sell'' it to the Plastic Bank. This seems to be the most effective and sustainable initiative that I know of. Educating the public on the harmful effects of plastic waste can only do so much. There must be a correlation between waste and how it will affect one's environment or livelihood. In Manado, I see the community taking special care of their waste because they realise that a polluted environment will repel tourists. More effort in driving the message is needed to preserve the Earth for our future generations.

Paul Henaghan
Vice-President, Data Centre Solutions, APJ
Dell EMC

WHILE certain retailers have imposed a plastic bag levy, individuals and organisations have a role to play in changing human behaviour towards single-use plastics. It is crucial that people recognise this perceived inconvenience is a small price to pay to address the impact that plastics have on our planet.

Through sustainable design and a circular economy, Dell has incorporated recycled plastic into our products for the past decade. Last year, we addressed ocean plastics by pioneering the first commercial-scale global supply chain to repurpose ocean-bound plastics into product packaging. Today, we collaborate with many other organisations to scale up the adoption of best practices in preventing plastics from reaching our oceans. A company's leadership in changing their behaviour towards plastic will influence employees, customers and partners.

Sng Khai Lin
Co-Founder and CFO

RIDDING the world of plastic pollution is an immense long-term undertaking that will take decades. Recognising that, Fundnel makes a consistent, conscious effort to instil a recycling culture in our team for all materials including plastic. We also have a ''green team'' which is on a constant lookout for green initiatives that Fundnel can be a part of in the long run.

The same goes for changing consumer behaviour - it is long term. Monetary incentives such as charging for the use of plastics can work in the short term but to truly elicit change, there must be constant engagement with the public on these issues. As consumer demand for sustainable products and services increases, businesses will follow the demand, and this will in turn create a healthier living environment for everyone.

Oscar Wezenbeek
Managing Director of Marine, Protective and Yacht

AKZONOBEL has partnered The Ocean Cleanup to help turn the tide on marine pollution. The Largest Cleanup in History aims to remove half of the marine pollution in the North Pacific accumulation zone in five years' time. The partnership involves AkzoNobel providing eco-friendly, biocide-free coatings technology - Intersleek - for all devices and equipment used by The Ocean Cleanup for the next five years.

Step one is to become more conscious and aware. Education is very important in this area. And the next step is to change behaviours. Everybody can make a contribution by reducing the use of plastic bags and bottles. We must think about our next generation and act responsibly.

Gary Steele
Chief Operating Officer

TECHNOLOGY trends such as the cloud, Internet of Things, mobile devices and global connectivity are combining to drive exponential growth in both plastic and electronic waste, now the fastest growing waste stream in the world. As one of the few global recyclers of e-waste, we believe that the recycling of that material must be convenient, accessible and mandatory. That's why it is encouraging to see Singapore's National Environment Agency implementing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in 2021 as this will require producers to take added responsibility for recycling the products they manufacture. This model works very effectively in other countries today, and also drives education and awareness at the community level which is a critical success factor in a programme like this.

Maren Schweizer
Schweizer World Pte Ltd

I BELIEVE that Singapore should become a role model for all Asean countries.

Understand, avoid, sort, recycle. With time, avoiding and proper sorting will become part of people's daily habits. It's also wonderful to show your children that you care about the world that they will be living in in the future.

While I lived there, Germany has been very successful in its fight against growing garbage dumps.

Firstly, manufacturers and retailers have to pay for a Green Dot on products - the more packaging there is, the higher the fee. Consumers have been educated to bring their own shopping bags or pay for plastic ones.

Secondly, a major part of the success of this programme is the proper sorting of garbage to enable efficient recycling. Colour-coded waste bins help one to sort plastic, glass and biological waste.

Thirdly, each household is limited to a maximum volume of waste. Those who exceed it will have to pay extra for waste collection.

Jean-Michel Dumont
Ruder Finn Asia

TO attract and retain good employees, companies increasingly need to be purpose-driven. Ensuring that they take up the right cause is key to this, and the plastic issue is one that has grown in visibility and importance over recent years - not the least because it affects our food chain and our health. As consultants to multinational corporations, we have helped our clients link with suitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and partners to address this issue.

Consumer education is at the core of any future success, but the support of retailers - the major source of discarded packaging - is critical, and this also includes training and education. To drive the message home, and ensure our own employees' buy-in, we have also supported NGOs, such as Ocean Recovery, or by being the communication partner of events such as The Plasticity Forum around the region. It will take a concerted effort, across geographies and sectors, to successfully address this major issue.

Edwin Khew Teck Fook
The Institution of Engineers, Singapore

MOST of Singapore's plastic waste is burnt in our incineration plants instead of being disposed into the sea or landfills. However, some of it gets into surrounding seas due to irresponsible acts by passing ships, boating population and picnickers. To reduce plastic waste, laws must be established requiring segregation of wet and dry waste at source. This will increase the recycling of plastics and other recyclables with high resale value.

What is more difficult to mandate is the use of micro plastics contained within beauty products and facial wash. These go through our sewer systems into the ocean and reservoirs, contaminating our ecosystem and NEWater plants. As the national society of engineers in Singapore, IES works closely with the public and private sectors and tertiary institutions to support the development of innovative solutions in environmental and water treatment engineering to address these problems.

Olive Tai
Co-founder and Managing Director &

AS an e-commerce enabler startup, we have systems in place at our warehouse where packing and delivery to our customers take place. While we have to use plastic storage bins, we utilise plastic optimally, making sure that our plastic bins hold our items for delivery on a maximum basis - nothing goes to waste. We use recyclable boxes to pack, and masking tape to seal boxes for delivery. All packing material not used or discarded are disposed of into recycling bins - cardboard, plastic, paper.

However, I feel we can always do more. I attended an e-commerce exhibition and conference recently, and I found exhibitors with new and waste-reducing ways for us to fulfil customer orders with even far less waste. I am already talking to these innovative packing vendors.

Janet Neo
Head of Corporate Sustainability
Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific

CONSCIOUS consumerism is growing but is not enough to stop plastic from polluting oceans and landfills. Our plastic society is here to stay until product manufacturers redefine their business models. The game changer lies in developing an integrated recycling system where nothing goes to waste.

Fuji Xerox products are designed with sleekness and optimal recyclability. We make it easy for all our customers by providing free and automatic take-back of our used products which are channelled to our eco-manufacturing centres, ensuring up to 99.9 per cent recycling rate. Used plastic can be reused as parts in new machines or be upcycled into new and innovative products such as apparel, furniture and buildings.

Jay Shah
Founder & CEO

THE invention of plastic was seen as a major breakthrough. However, this innovation did not highlight the negative repercussions that accompanied it. It was only realised when the damage was already done with unsightly stacks of plastic garbage around the world - and non-biodegradable to boot. One option is burning, but that would have detrimental effects on the environment. The result is plastic waste covering about 40 per cent of the world's ocean surfaces or clogging up landfills, a menace to the wildlife around the vicinity.

Although plastic is useful and ubiquitous, it has become of paramount importance to educate people and raise awareness of the damage wrought on the ecosystem by plastics. While we have moved towards practising the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle - we should also consider banning the use of plastic bags to begin with. In fact, such regulations are already in place in most of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. Governments should also ban dumping of any sort into the oceans and impose severe penalties, including fines, for anyone - corporations or individuals - found to violate this. To rise above plastics, OpenDNA has practised the use of ''bring your own'' mugs to office as well as going digital and green to minimise the use of plastics or paper. Our way to save the earth, one step at a time.

Lionel Chng
Managing Director
HP Singapore

EVERY second, HP sends one printer and 1.7 PCs to customers worldwide. We therefore have a responsibility to minimise our environmental impact and support a circular and lower-carbon economy. We do this by reinventing the ways we tackle our sustainability challenges. For example, we are moving to a ''make-use-return'' approach and away from the typical linear manufacturing process by making ink cartridges out of coloured plastic bottles recycled in Haiti. In Singapore, we recently launched the HP Make IT Green campaign, one of Singapore's largest e-waste recycling initiatives to give devices new life for new users. By constantly discovering new solutions and igniting new possibilities, we can all work to make the world a better place.

Rathakrishnan Govind
London School of Business and Finance (LSBF Global)

IT'S all about education. The millennials today are more aware of and concerned about the environment we live in than their parents. My school has adopted sustainability as part of our philosophy, and educates all our students on the need to be mindful of our environment; but it has to be in-depth and in practice rather than just a communication exercise. Only then will it permeate to the level of activist action. Getting involved in activities such as a beach clean-up very often brings the problem to the surface immediately, and is very effective. To change mindsets on use of plastics, there must be alternatives that are equally cheap and available. This is where we are falling behind. While there are alternatives available, they are often more expensive and not easily available when needed. This has to change.

Jayne Plunkett
CEO Asia, Reinsurance
Swiss Re Asia Pte Ltd

SUSTAINABILITY is at the core of our operations. While the 'Re' in Swiss Re officially stands for reinsurance, we care passionately about reducing, reusing and recycling. Our home market of Switzerland is the world's most advanced country in terms of waste management, and we're proud to take this mindset with us wherever we operate in Asia. To turn this mindset into material impact, we have a robust Sustainability Risk Framework which helps us minimise sustainability risks for all our underwriting and investment activities. Swiss Re's asset management business is also the first in our sector to manage all of our assets in accordance with environmental social governance (ESG) benchmarks.

We run an ISO 14001 environment management system in all locations to manage waste, ensuring segregation and recycling wherever possible. Voluntary green teams are active in certain offices with more aggressive targets like zero waste to landfill. As a leading reinsurer, we also look at increasing stress to the ocean economy as an emerging risk affecting businesses and society, and work with our partners in the insurance industry to help develop solutions.

Dora Hoan
Group CEO
Best World International Ltd

MANY years ago, my company Best World switched to using paper bags and to recycling bags. Although we ended up with higher costs, we felt the need to play a part in saving Earth.

Most of our healthcare products are packed with recyclable primary packaging. For skincare products that require secondary packaging, we choose paper as it is also environmentally more friendly.

We are also strongly supportive of any organisations' initiatives to address plastic pollution.

Plastic bags are widely used mainly because they are cheap and lightweight. If R&D can produce alternatives that are cheaper and more convenient than plastic bags, we may see a change in human behaviour over our reliance on plastic bags. Meanwhile, education will influence behaviour. We can implement appropriate awareness programmes to school-age children and the general public, to make them aware of how plastic pollution can adversely affect both humans and wildlife.

Perhaps there could be rebate incentives to spur companies to recycle bags or use paper bags, it would encourage more companies to stop using plastics.

Helen Ng
Chief Executive Officer
General Storage Company Pte Ltd

TO address the issue of paper and plastic waste, the Self-Storage Association Asia has issued recommendations to our members on the adoption of environmentally friendly practices such as introducing recycling bins at their facilities. At Lock+Store, we conserve energy by deploying motion sensors for lights and fans at certain facilities. We also recently introduced electronic waste disposal bins at six facilities in Singapore to encourage our storers to dispose of their e-waste responsibly. Protecting the environment is a shared responsibility. Businesses can show their commitment to Earth Day by providing facilities for their customers to dispose of plastic waste responsibly.

Karl Hamann
Chief Executive Officer
QBE Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd

INCREASING environmental pollution can lead to dire effects on our weather and overall climate. Average global temperatures have already risen by almost one degree Celsius over the past 100 years. As a global business, we integrate sustainability considerations into our decision making. We track and monitor our emissions production, energy, waste and water consumption - all of which are measured annually on a per-employee basis. This provides us the opportunity to implement resource efficiency initiatives across our offices. If all companies take small steps like these, the combined impact can be significant.

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director
Plan-B ICAG Pte Ltd

WE are experiencing climatic changes that are dramatically disrupting our lives. Yet, few of us bothered to do anything to prevent such devastating changes from becoming worse.

It is not for lack of government efforts to protect the environment or public education to better enlighten everyone on the ill effects of environmental pollution. But if we do nothing, it will be a case of trying to reverse the situation too little too late, going into the future.

Everyone should develop the discipline to recycle plastics. The current lackadaisical attitude of many needs to be discouraged. Perhaps there should be a plastic tax which is redeemable when the plastic is recycled. Only then can we confidently look forward to Singapore to continue to be a livable and fine city.

David Leong
Managing Director
PeopleWorldwide Consulting Pte Ltd

WE are in the Age of Plastics. The use of plastics has become a habitual convenience. Plastics are found in every part of our living environment.

The first plastic which is a man-made synthetic polymer made from phenol and formaldehyde was invented in 1907, by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American. Commercial plastic bottles were used around late 1940s and early 1950s.

Unless and until the world bans the use of plastic to find alternative sources of biodegradable materials to substitute the use of plastics which cannot decompose naturally, this deadly polymer will kill the world and people with the health hazard.

At a personal level, we have refrained from using plastic bags whenever we could and recycling those plastic bags and bottles as much as possible.

The world must act in unison to resist and desist from the use of plastic.

Annie Yap
AYP Associates

COLOUR. Strength. Versatility. These are qualities of plastic that we have revered and profited from. Plastic is able to open new doors, from novel medical applications, lightweight transportation to harnessing energy. That said, the promises of plastic are as great as their pitfalls. Besides choking the oceans, they threaten our waste systems, and pose a risk to humans in the form of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Problems as big as these can only be solved by combined efforts from policymakers, organisations and individuals. Countries around the world such as Taiwan and England are rolling out bans on single-use plastic items. And we should do our part too. It can be simple as making your own caffeine fix or bringing your own tumbler to work!

Lynette Seah
Founder and CEO

GO green and be aware of our surroundings! We need to be more sensitive and considerate about others. Always use recyclable items to help save the planet.