I have always been a firm believer in the power of personal action and responsibility when it comes to making changes. Such as trying to reduce waste. And that by making personal choices, we can influence businesses to change.

Lately I am starting to wonder if company policies should be accorded more importance than I had originally thought.

Take packaging waste for example. Food outlets in Singapore severely over-package their take-out food – even people like McDonalds and Burger King who ought to know better. Everything, including sealed bottles of drinks, are individually wrapped in a paper or plastic bag, before the whole kit is put into yet another larger plastic carrier. Even dine-in places like Ben and Jerry’s use plastic disposable bowls and cutlery.

Singaporeans seem to love the plastic bag. I have seen people at the supermarket asking for a plastic bag to carry a single banana, or a box of lollies that was designed to fit into a pocket. And well-trained check out people just about packaging each item in its own individual bag.

Clearly, a larger proportion of the population here are not yet as aware as elsewhere. (That is ok, it all takes time I guess.) I just get so dejected with trying to explain to (the obviously well-trained) serving staff my preference for less packaging. I get looks that say “But it’s free! And convenient! Why don’t you want it?” … And yes, I have opposing thumbs, I can carry a drink in my hand as well as I can a plastic bag.

And they are so efficient so as to make the attempt moot most of the time. By the time I open my mouth, the whole thing is already swaddled in plastic and ready to go.

So, in the mean time, perhaps company policies should play a larger role. We could start with Western-owned food retailers (who should be more aware of the whole green thing) retraining their staff to package with less. Much less.

I challenge McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC to show some leadership in the region.

(Not that this will probably make any difference...)