A look at the hidden crack in S’pore—dumpster diving for food


A society that contributes to great wastage is frowned upon, but in truth, it is not something out-of-the-ordinary for many advanced and well-developed countries, including Singapore (sadly).

According to statistics, the amount of food that is thrown out every day is equivalent to two bowls of food per person.  However, you will be surprised to know that there are people who reverse these numbers by digging through dumpsters on a daily basis just to find food that is still edible.

60-year-old cardboard collector, Madam Kwek is one of the many who rummage through produce that was thrown out due to defects: be it being less fresh or due to cosmetic defects.

“I would rather buy fresh vegetables, but people throw away so much food that can still be eaten. If I see it and leave it there, it will be such a waste,” said Madam Kwek who believed that while the vegetables are slightly yellowed, with holes and look a little off, they are still edible.

Madam Kwek added that whatever produce she manages to get her hands on isn’t only for her own consumption as she gives them to the old folks who live in her estate too.

Another reality you probably never noticed is that between 6pm and 8pm along Buffalo Road Little India, at the stretch of vegetable stalls, you can see people actually go through the trash bins there to find edible food to bring back home.

You can also find piles of unwanted produce thrown into a dumpster at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, the biggest vegetables and fruit wholesale market in Singapore.

Most of the vegetable and fruit sellers don’t mind the likes of Madam Kwek going through the unwanted produce as long as they do not make a huge mess.


There are also some who dislike these people rummaging through the bins for food, like one staff member at Hupco, a vegetable importer.

He said, “Most of these bins don’t get cleaned for a long time, and there must be plenty of bacteria in there. It is not worth it”.

It’s very sad when you come to think of it. Even with being such a modernised country, you would think that extreme wastage and poverty can be eradicated but it’s much more complex than that.

However, if this is the case then maybe the best solution to this problem is to not throw the unwanted produce into the trash but instead, a proper station or centre can be set up to distribute it to people who won’t mind a little yellowing or holes in the produce.

That way, those who are less fortunate will have access to cleaner food and wastage can then be reduced but that’s just me. What do you think?


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A Bornean girl who starves for magic and craves adventure. Loves poetry, wine, animals and cat naps. An amateur writer determined to bring world peace!