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How to BYO your way to zero waste

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

For those who want to cut down on disposables and plastics without forfeiting take-away and bubble tea (hmmm), BYO is the way to go.

There are two kinds of people reading this: those who read « wine » vs those who read « keep-a-cup ». Possibly a third group thought of the two combined and will deny that alcohol came first. Either way, we all agree that it’s time to put a stop to disposables. This is the BYO guide to eating out in Singapore plastic-guilt free.

How to Bring-Your-Own [anything]

What is byo and BYOB?

Long before the plastic bag tax and #instagrammable #nostraw movement, the great people of Britain had decided that in order to drink more and spend less they would allow customers to « bring your own bottle / beer/ booze/ beverage» at restaurants. Used interchangeably with #BYO though the latter is more commonly used on invitations to ask guests to bring one’s own anything, the BYO or BYOB (Bring-your-own-bowl) you now see on vendor displays is to encourage customers to bring their own containers, such as lunchbox, straws, or coffee cup.

In Singapore, the BYO campaign launched last year aimed to sensitise the public and food vendors to the habit of using reusable containers and cutlery to cut down on the massive amount of single-use plastics the country goes through daily; most of which the life spans are typically no more than half an hour, and some barely 10 mins, the time it takes to walk from the nearest Koi Thé or Starbucks and the office. It resulted in vendors offering reductions, free toppings or extra vendor points for bringing your own container. Singapore has declared 2019 as the year of Zero-Waste (last year focused efforts to combat climate change). How to make the most of this and become a zero-waste warrior?

#1 Choose your weapons

You don't even need to splash on anything expensive if you're in an office that has the bare minimums for a kitchen. If you don't have a bowl at work, we're sure you have what it takes at home to collect clean empty take-away boxes and juice bottles. Better still, if you want to be able to re-heat safely, invest in non-plastic containers altogether suitable for micro-waves. For snacks like fruit pieces, and loose nuts, mason jars with wide openings do quite well. They’re also our favourite for Frappuccino and açai bowls even when we’re dining in.


Tote bags make great lunch bags, and are handed out for free at every other event - so reuse them! Roomy, washable and durable, they beat plastic bags, especially the "biodegradable" types that by the way, the majority of which ends up in landfills, where nothing biodegrades and can't be recycled with other plastics. And if you thought totes were for girls, how’s this for cool guy?

The hippest tote carrier we've seen

#2 Find the partners for freebies

The partners of the BYO campaign in Singapore contributed to the movement by offering anything from 50 cents off or more to free toppings and special rewards on purchases when customers presented their own bowl, bottle or cup. The best lists of places can be found on Dollars&Sense which lists the most generous participants (iow where do you get the most freebies!), or the comprehensive list detailing the campaigns and other engagements towards less waste can be found on the BYO website. The top 3 are Plain Vanilla Bakery, Common Man Coffee Roasters and SaladStop!