You've done it, you've refused your first single-use plastic bag at NTUC today. But it's just dawned upon you: where will the rubbish go?
This must be THE biggest concern every Singaporean has when we mention bans on plastic bags or plastic bag taxes. Hence, we have this conversation with countless amounts of people, so we thought we'd lay out the top concerns... and how to solve them.
1. OMG - I have no plastic bags for my rubbish!
Plastic bags are only necessary for wet / humid items. Everything else can make do with a paper liner, as per the video below:
2. Heck that's a lot of paper for one bin - isn't that wastefull (get it?)
You shouldn't need that much if you use the liner essentially to gather what dry things cannot be recycled such as tiny bits of plastics, grocery stickers... And actually, most things can be recycled; from electronics to furniture, everything (almost) can find a new home or at the very least an afterlife.
But most importantly, most things can be REFUSED. Remember, zero-waste isn't about how much recycling you can get out of your trash, it's about how little recycling you need to actually do altogether. The smaller amount of waste you bring into your home, the less you'll have to dispose of (simple, really).
3. OK for dry stuff, but I still have wet waste, so where does that go?
In the R policy (3Rs reduce, reuse, recycle is actually full of others including ROT), composting plays an important part for a sustainable lifestyle. Organics can be composted in your own home. The misconception that only large companies or homes with gardens can compost is slowly dying as city-dwellers around Singapore start their own composting in their high-rise condos and HDBs.
This guide by tendergardener.com will also help you determine what the best composting method is for you.
Some schools also have compost initiatives, such as the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Pre-school in Upper East Coast that invites kids to bring along a bag full of raw food trash to school. We learnt from the Canadians (once again) that you can safely keep organics destined for composting in your freezer in a paper bag until the dag you want to take them out to a composting site!
4. So I can compost all my wet stuff in there?
Certainly not! Foods such as dairy and meats will attract pests. You will still have to use a moisture sealing bag to dispose of your wet waste that cannot be composted, especially due to the weather in Singapore that increases the speed of rot. As an FYI, HDBs forbid anyone to throw out trash directly in a chute without being bagged.
And obviously, but it's worth reminding, feminine hygiene products - even cotton tampons - cannot be composted for sanitary reasons. We strongly recommend trying out menstrual cups to end all you menstrual disposables. It really changes your life (personal input here 100%!).
5. So should I buy biodegradable bags?
While you might think that these are friendlier to incinerate (there are 4 waste-to-energy incineration plants in Singapore, and an off shore landfill to handle the resulting ash or construction materials that cannot be incinerated or recycled), the fumes from Singapore incinerators are considered to meet WHO standards, so the difference between the toxins emitted from say your average petroleum bag and a biodegradable plastic bag is negligible. Moreover, buying biodegradable bags encourages the production of plastic bags, full stop. Use whatever plastic you can find from packaging you've had to take home with products. Think about those huge loo roll packs - if you cut the bag cleanly, you can use that as a liner!
What solutions have you found to find living with less plastic bags when it comes to the home trash?