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#OCBCCARES Environment Fund to finance two ground-up solutions tapping the growing demand for vending machines in Singapore to tackle plastic waste issues

#OCBCCARES Environment Fund to finance two ground-up solutions tapping the growing demand for vending machines in Singapore to tackle plastic waste issues

  • 31 May 2022

OCBC Bank today announced that it will fund the implementation of five projects proposed by Singapore youths that can make a viable and large-scale difference to Singapore’s national agenda for sustainable development.

Among these projects that will be funded through the #OCBCares Environment Fund are two plans that tap the growing popularity of vending machines and a ‘Bring Your Own’ culture in Singapore to mitigate a rise in plastic waste. The other three projects range from developing a game simulation – to nudge individuals to adopt green practices – to building a portal to connect like-minded individuals to tackle environmental issues.

The two projects that focus on vending machines are ReuseOnly and Bottles Out. Team ReuseOnly encourages the usage of reusables by availing affordable and reusable items such as containers, cups and cutlery through vending machines. Team Bottles Out, on the other hand, will offer drink machines that, instead of dispensing beverages in plastic bottles, will allow individuals to bring and use their own bottles.

According to Euromonitor International, the world’s leading independent provider of market research, revenues earned in Singapore from vending machines grew about 15% in six years, between 2014 and 2019*.

While both projects use different methods to mitigate the rise in plastic waste, their common goal – which is aligned with Singapore’s Green Plan – is to help Singaporeans shift from awareness of environmental issues to adoption of green practices, by overcoming barriers like cost incurred by additional packaging and inconvenience. This is also in line with findings of the inaugural OCBC Climate Index, which found that the top two reasons for Singaporeans not adopting green practices were cost and inconvenience.

The five projects that the #OCBCCares Environment Fund will support were selected out of 11 submissions that were showcased during the second edition of the Sustainability Exchange event held on 27 May 2022. The judges included representatives from Eco-Business, Meta, National University of Singapore and OCBC Bank.

OCBC Bank will fund the pilot implementation of only those projects that are aligned with the objectives of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund, which is to support ground-up projects that can generate actionable outcomes and nudge adoption of environmentally responsible behaviour.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, Head of Group Brand and Communications at OCBC Bank, shared that – as climate change issues have become ever more
salient – the need for action has become increasingly urgent.

She said: “The purpose of our #OCBCCares Environment Fund is to motivate the community through projects that can empower the general public to implement sustainable and scalable climate action solutions that will benefit Singapore. That’s why this Fund supports projects that go beyond raising awareness to directly impacting the environment. We
need to rouse everyone to take action now.”

According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, human-induced climate change is affecting the planet in damaging ways.

Ms Koh added, “We are glad we can fill in the funding gap to support the implementation of solutions by the selected teams. It gives our youths the unique opportunity to test their solutions, assess tangible outcomes and possibly scale up their solutions to benefit Singapore’s Green Plan. I look forward to seeing positive results.”

According to the findings of the inaugural OCBC Climate Index, which was launched in partnership with Eco Business in August 2021, the Index national average then was 6.7 – with Singaporeans scoring an average of 8.3 in the area of awareness of environmental issues, 6.5 for adoption of green practices and 5.6 for advocacy of issues and good practices to families and friends. While Singaporeans are aware of climate change issues, many have not adopted green practices. The top two deterrents were cost and inconvenience, followed by reasons such as believing that the status quo is sufficient, not caring about the issue and believing that individual action cannot make an impact.

With support from the Fund, Team Reuse – comprising four tertiary students from the National University of Singapore and Singapore Polytechnic – will implement vending machines with a two-in-one function to dispense reusables. Individuals can either purchase the items at the machines at affordable prices, or loan them at a fee that is lower than the market rate. Cleaning services for the loaned reusables will be provided by the machines.

For Team Bottles Out — a dynamic all-girls team featuring four students from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, and National University of Singapore – the support from the Fund gets them one step closer to tackling an issue close to their hearts. 21-year-old Tasnim Inas shared: “All four of us wanted to tackle the plastic waste issue in Singapore. We felt that the volume plastic bottles generated from vending machines is quite significant. To address the issue of convenience, what better way to nudge people to bring their own bottles than through a vending machine that dispenses drinks of their choice? If successful and scalable, we can remove a significant number of plastic bottles from the environment.”

Jessica Cheam, EB Impact’s founder and the founder and managing director of Eco-Business Founder, said: “EB Impact is thrilled to have convened a second successful season of Sustainability Exchange. This year, we had a new steering committee provide technical expertise and guidance to come up with a set of problem statements that we believe were exciting and meaningful for participants. The 11 participating teams came up with strong and tangible solutions to sustainability problems in our society.

The additional funding secured from the #OCBCCares Environment Fund has also helped to provide the resources needed for youths to turn their ideas into reality. We are grateful to all our partners for making this programme possible and looking forward to helping and supporting young professionals solve real world challenges with the guidance of passionate mentors.”

Key milestones in OCBC Bank’s environmental sustainability journey

OCBC Bank actively champions environmental sustainability by encouraging involvement within the community in the fight against climate change.

The #OCBCCares programme is important in getting the community involved in the fight against climate change. Under this programme, OCBC launched the #OCBCCares Environment Fund to focus on identifying gaps where sustainable and strategic support is needed; and funding projects that can directly mitigate climate change issues. From 2017 to 2019, the #OCBCCares Environment Fund successfully provided $265,000 to fund 15 ground-up projects ranging from the development of dehydrated washing detergents, food composting, waste management recycling of clothes to rewilding a campsite at Sarimbun to promote biodiversity.

Under the #OCBCCares programme, the Bank also supported the OCBC Arboretum, a landmark project at the Singapore Botanic Gardens which conserves and studies 200 species of dipterocarp trees. The 2,000 trees at the arboretum can store 80 million kg of CO2 over their lifetimes. Research at the Arboretum can also improve future forestation and carbon storage projects.

About the Sustainability Exchange Programme

The Sustainability Exchange 2022 is a youth-mentorship programme aimed at solving sustainability challenges aligned with the Singapore Green Plan. Under this programme, youths are matched with experienced professionals to work on solving sustainability challenges faced in Singapore.

The Programme is organised by EB Impact, the non-profit sister organisation of Eco-Business.

Besides providing financial support for implementation of winning projects that are aligned with the objectives of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund, OCBC Bank staff volunteers also conducted workshops on budgeting and presentation skills for participants – to help them prepare robust proposals and present well.

*Enterprise SG & BBC News (Business)

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