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NDP fun pack goes green this year

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Zero Waste SG helped organisers reduce amount of material in goodie bags

Those lucky enough to land tickets for the National Day Parade (NDP) and its rehearsal shows are often just as excited to receive the fun packs, usually a plastic tote bag filled with items like bottled water, poncho and even the maraca, a musical instrument.

But many of the items end up in the bin after the event. And considering 250,000 fun packs were distributed last year, these one-time use items generate a lot of waste.

In 2014, the organisers said the NDP generates at least 70 tonnes of waste a year. Of this, about 30 tonnes were recycled.

Time for a rethink, say local green group Zero Waste SG and Member of Parliament Louis Ng.

For the first time, organisers consulted a non-governmental organisation in planning this year's parade logistics.

After going through an exhaustive list, organisers dropped the maracas and scarves, for example, from the fun packs and cut out plastic packaging from most of the bags' contents.

Such efforts will cut more than 1.7 million disposable items from potentially ending up in the bin after the preview shows and the parade on Aug 9 at the Padang.

"Our advice to the organisers was that it was best to reduce, but if you can't reduce, then you have to look at the next best alternative, which is to reduce the material used," said Ms Pek Hai Lin, manager of Zero Waste SG.

The group has also argued against bento boxes for participants and volunteers.

This year, the parade planning committee has organised buffet spreads for its volunteers and performers, where possible, to reduce food waste.

In a Facebook post last week, Mr Ng made the case for the fun packs to exclude all plastic bottles and bags.

"NDP is the biggest birthday party in Singapore for the year... this is one chance where we can reach out to a lot of people, one event where everyone can see eventually that we don't need a plastic bag or a plastic bottle," Mr Ng told the Straits Times.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said in Parliament last year that going forward, the fun packs will be more environmentally friendly.

For example, collection points will be set up so spectators can return unused items from the fun pack, especially ponchos.

Ms Pek said Zero Waste SG has briefed 100 parade volunteers on recycling dos and don'ts, and the importance of recycling only clean and dry plastics.But she has one more suggestion - to do away with the fun pack altogether.

"The money spent on the funpack can go towards the show instead... as much as Government and big organisations have to make changes, the push (for zero waste) must come from the ground," she said.

Paradegoer Alvin Yuen, 38, who attended last Saturday's preview show, said doing away with the fun pack is not a bad idea.

He felt it had a number of "unnecessary things" such as the luggage tag.

The stockbroker said: "It's good to provide (the fun packs), but maybe it could come with more practical things that can be used on the actual day itself and afterwards."