The food waste landscape in Singapore isn’t exactly ideal. In 2021, the National Environment Agency (NEA) reported that the country’s total amount of food waste generated was 817,000 tonnes, of which only 19 per cent was recycled.
To tackle this issue, Singapore announced a Zero Waste Masterplan that will see many initiatives and measures being implemented over the next few years.
This includes rolling out legislation in 2024 to mandate new developments like placing on-site food waste treatment in areas where food wastage occurs, deploying food waste digestor machines across Tampines as part of a pilot programme, and encouraging businesses in Singapore to introduce new solutions.
One such local green technology business is Biomax Green. Founded in 2009 by Sim Eng Tong, who is personally interested in recycling himself, the business plays a key role in the sustainability movement.
I previously worked in the food industry and the amount of food wastage I witnessed astounded me. As landfills and incineration were the common methods of disposing food waste then, it got me thinking that we needed a more sustainable solution and that I could become a pioneer driving this change.
– Sim Eng Tong, founder and CEO of Biomax Green
Roping in a friend of his who’s a scientist, they brainstormed a solution that could quickly transform waste materials into something useful.
This was what eventually led to the establishing of Biomax Green’s award-winning patented solution, which can convert all types of organic waste into high quality organic fertiliser in just 24 hours.
Currently, Biomax Green works with several local and overseas organisations to manage food waste, and are looking to make their digesters more customisable in terms of size, portability and user friendliness as they predict an increasing demand for their technology in the near future.
Solutions towards tackling wastage in Singapore
Eng Tong laments some misconceptions about the recycling industry, and how necessary Biomax Green’s technology is in the current landscape.
For one, he observes that people in Singapore are used to simply bagging all their rubbish and disposing it through a centralised refuse chute system, where there is a complete lack of waste sorting. He believes it is this convenience that discourages many from actively seeking to recycle and develop good waste management practices.
Moreover, for those who do recycle, many of them assume that whatever is placed in a recycling bin would eventually get sorted out and recycled. However, Eng Tong highlights that items containing liquid and food waste are not only unsuitable for recycling, but can end up contaminating the rest of the recyclables in the bin, ultimately making the entire pile not recyclable.
“Items which are deemed not recyclable are no different from general waste. They will be incinerated and disposed of in landfills, which creates system inefficiencies and defeats the purpose of recycling”, he adds.
He points out another common assumption, which is that everyday waste will be incinerated because most of it is not recyclable. In reality, he shares that technology can be used to process the waste efficiently in a short period of time and recycle it into useful compost such as fertilisers.
For Eng Tong, developing a waste sorting culture in Singapore is key in order to address the waste landscape.
Besides seeking to make the waste sorting system more diverse and robust, he suggests having more coloured bins on top of the blue bin initiative that could better inform users of the specific types of waste accepted.
“If people know exactly where to dispose of specific items, they are likely to make more of an effort”, he emphasises.
On a more micro scale, he also urged schools and educational institutions to educate and encourage students to develop efficient waste management practices.
In fact, Biomax has worked with a local school by supplying them with a custom-made mini digester machine, where students and staff can dispose their food waste. This helps students gain a better understanding and exposure to alternative waste management processes.
“There is no better place than schools to learn about environmental awareness and we are glad to have contributed to the learning and educational journey for the next generation”, he posits.
He feels that other businesses should also adopt a more proactive stance. Eng Tong lauded an example in which his client placed one of their digesters in the canteen to advocate the treating of their own food waste, where the organic fertiliser output was then utilised for their own on-site landscaping needs.
Biomax Green developed an award-winning technology
This is why Eng Tong is proud of Biomax Green’s technology. Fronted by the Biomax Rapid Thermophilic Digestor — an automated enclosed system using specially formulated BM1 enzymes — organic compounds inside organic wastes can be broken down into simpler organic matter at an unprecedented speed.
Not to mention, the system is compatible with all types of wastes. From agricultural ones like grain husks and fruit pulp, to livestock wastes from animal slaughter and egg processing, to even municipal waste like food waste and horticulture waste, all of these can be further broken down by their system.
The waste is first loaded into the digester via the input conveyor belt, where Biomax Green then creates the optimum production environment such as keeping the temperature at 80 degrees Celsius with the help of automated systems.
During the process, 1kg of BM1 enzyme is added to every one ton of waste in the system. This enables the waste to be broken down into simpler forms without any pollutant by-products released.
The result after 24 hours? Odourless, pathogen-free, and high-nutrient organic fertilisers.
Ultimately, they wish for their technology to be able to produce fertiliser that enriches the soil in no more than 24 hours, as well as educate people on the benefits of using their technology.
Noticing that more local gardening communities and home gardeners have been purchasing their fertiliser, Eng Tong shares that Biomax Green has made an effort to supply their fertiliser to several plant nurseries in Singapore in addition to local farmers.
Passion sustains business
The environmentally-conscious Eng Tong’s journey towards building Biomax Green to what it is today was a treacherous one.
“I did not come from a scientific background. I had to learn as much as I could about the science of waste management in a short frame of time”, he recalls.
As such, it took them many years to produce the perfect solution of an enzyme catalyst able to break down and transform all forms of organic waste into high-grade fertiliser within 24 hours. “We also needed to find a machine capable of generating high heat to carry out the metamorphosis,” he adds.
To make things worse, recycling was also not a common topic back then. According to Eng Tong, people were not receptive to such ideas and did not consider waste management to be part of their goals or visions.
“The first 18 months were a hard slog because nobody could convince themselves that a small Singaporean company would be capable of producing such a technology.”
Regardless, they persevered and wrote letters to farms and waste companies all over the world that were potential users of their technology. They also made an effort to keep improving the quality of their fertiliser.
Many were sceptical in the beginning. But after many rounds of convincing them to believe in Biomax Green’s product, Eng Tong and his team finally received an overseas order.
Even though it was tough, Eng Tong shares that they pushed on because they genuinely believed that the technology they were inventing would be a game-changer. Moreover, there was a growing shift worldwide towards pursuing more environmentally-friendly solutions, which they were eager to be part of.
With a dedicated and genuine team committed to enhancing sustainability, Biomax Green was duly awarded the ASEAN Business Awards in the SME Innovation category, the Best Practices Award (Innovation) by Frost & Sullivan and the Emerging Enterprise Award (Winner) in 2013.
The company has also earned itself the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award (Most Promising Category), the Spirit of Enterprise Award, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Technology & Innovation) and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Established Entrepreneur) in 2014.
It is just a matter of having the courage to take the first step. I was solely focused on pursuing my passion for recycling and building a local brand, which would deliver solutions not just locally, but also internationally.
– Sim Eng Tong, founder and CEO of Biomax Green
Using technology for a greener future
Taking that first step opened many doors for Eng Tong and Biomax Green. One of these doors was being able to gain an international presence, where Biomax Green expanded its market to countries as far as the United States, Australia and even parts of Europe.
Since its humble beginnings at Depot Road office in 2009, Biomax Green has continued to improve their products, from expanding their enzyme range by developing new supplements for plant root growth, to developing an organic insecticide to eliminate harmful insects in all kinds of plantations.
Now that Singapore has rolled out its Zero Waste Masterplan, Biomax Green intends to continue playing a key role in being one of the sustainable, resource efficient solutions.
Understanding that large commercial and industrial food waste generators in Singapore will have to segregate their food waste and implement waste management practices from 2024 onwards, Eng Tong foresees that the corporate demand for their technology will increase.
“This is a great opportunity for us to work with more enterprises on developing appropriate waste management solutions and something we are excited about.”
Featured Image credit: Biomax Green