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How OCBC is Partnering SATS to Fuel Innovation in Waste Management

Winners are awarded $80,000 to kickstart their pilot programmes.

This article was written in collaboration with OCBC Business Banking. All views expressed in this article are the independent opinion of based on our research. is not liable for any financial losses that may arise from any transactions and readers are encouraged to do their own due diligence. You can view our full editorial policy here.

Food and packaging waste is a serious global issue. It is estimated that 17% of the total global food production – or about 930 million tonnes of food – went to waste in 2019, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report.

This does not even include packaging waste that is often mixed with food waste – making it even harder to apply the right treatment to turn different types of waste into useful byproducts such as fertiliser or fuel. What’s more problematic is that packaging waste may also have chemicals that are harmful to our health and pollute landfills in its disposal.

OCBC Bank launched its inaugural Sustainability Innovation Challenge (OSIC) in June 2022, partnering SATS to find solutions relating to effective waste management and reduction for the agri-food industry. As an initiative under OCBC’s Climate Strategy, OSIC is a demonstration of the bank’s support of sustainable innovation and technology. It is also a reflection of the bank’s deep commitment in supporting the sustainability journey of its customers, by building an ecosystem where key problems in the sustainability space can be collectively solved.

The challenge statements of this programme are:

  1. How might we turn waste into energy or other by-products; and
  2. How might we create circularity of consumer products

Start-ups with innovative solutions addressing the challenge statements were invited to participate. Winning teams received up to S$80,000 from OCBC Bank to pilot their solutions with SATS.

OCBC Launched A Global Challenge In Partnership With SATS To Tackle Food And Packaging Waste

As a leading provider of food solutions and gateway services in Asia, SATS dishes up inflight meals as well as supports healthcare institutions, schools, government agencies with end-to-end food solutions. In financial year ended 31 March 2022, SATS served 52.4 million meals. With the continued re-opening momentum across the region, this is poised to increase. As a reference, SATS served 57.4% more meals, or 82.5 million meals in financial year ended 31 March 2020. (Note: These operational statistics cover SATS and its subsidiaries, but do not include associates and joint ventures.)

SATS meals

Source: SATS Annual Report (FY2021-22)

For a behemoth business like SATS with such diverse operations, sustainability must cut across its entire value chain.

As Chief Data and Sustainability Officer of SATS, Spencer Low, puts it, “Sustainability is essential for the long-term success and survival of any business”.

To tackle this, SATS is guided by three core themes of sustainability: 1) Develop Smart Infrastructure; 2) Reduce Food and Packaging Waste; and 3) Nurture Skills for the Future.

Under its second core theme – to reduce food and packaging waste – SATS’ goal is to “halve food waste intensity in Singapore” by 2028. Currently, SATS has already embarked on several initiatives to track its production waste by AI and recycle materials, such as metal cans, glass bottles, and carton boxes, among others. It had also installed a biodigester that can convert waste into refuse-derived fuel. In addition, the company works to minimise food waste at source through the judicious use of food trimmings and investing in food technology.

Partnering OCBC Bank in the OCBC Sustainability Innovation Challenge, SATS can look forward to piloting more innovative market solutions that will help it achieve a closed loop in managing food and packaging waste. Underscoring this win-win collaboration is OCBC’s own Sustainability Strategy to “create a positive social, environmental and economic impact for our stakeholders by embedding responsible and sustainable business practices in everything” that it does.

In the inaugural edition of OSIC, close to 100 companies and start-ups from 24 markets across continents sent their proposals in response to the challenge statements.

The competition was then narrowed to eight finalists, who pitched their solutions to a panel of judges from SATS, OCBC Bank, the National Environment Agency (NEA), and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Two winning teams emerged: Enexor BioEnergy for challenge statement 1 and TRIA for challenge statement 2.

Enexor BioEnergy is a US-based manufacturer of the Bio-CHP, a renewable energy, water purification, and carbon conversion solution for the world’s organic and plastic waste problems. It will install its Bio-CHP system at SATS’ catering operations in Singapore. The aim is to convert onsite waste, including plastic, food waste, and biomass, into renewable electricity and thermal energy while offsetting carbon emissions.

As the firm is situated in the US, its pilot process is expected to begin in Q1 2023 and be operational by Q4 2023. The funding from OCBC will go towards the pilot design and implementation, including site assessments, permitting, carbon credit validation and verification efforts, feedstock testing, and feasibility studies.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Enexor BioEnergy, Lee Jestings, shared that they are “honoured to have won the OCBC Sustainability Innovation Challenge 2022 and look forward to using this pilot as a successful case study to expand Enexor BioEnergy’s presence in Asia”.

“We are excited to partner with SATS and OCBC on their mission of building a more sustainable future by converting their organic and plastic waste streams at Changi Airport into onsite, affordable renewable energy to power their operations and save them money on their operating costs, all while lowering their carbon and plastic footprint. We hope to use this pilot as a case study in our efforts to bring our innovative renewable energy systems across Asia to help solve waste problems and increase access to affordable renewable energy,” he says.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Enexor BioEnergy

Lee Jestings, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Enexor BioEnergy, dialing in from the US

Locally based sustainable and innovative foodware company TRIA will run a pilot to treat both the packaging and food waste without requiring any segregation. To enable both types of waste to be treated together, TRIA will use the funding from OCBC to develop a plant-based packaging that supports SATS’ operations including the conditions needed for reheating, using its proprietary NEUTRIA technology. It will also fabricate a Rapid Depolymerisation Module for the pilot to trial pre-treatment of post-consumption waste for downstream transformation into fertiliser and energy.

TRIA’s pilot will start in January 2023 and span approximately nine to 12 months. The pilot will proof test the viability of the closed-loop solution for potential replication across SATS’ network of operations.

L-R) Mike Ng, Head of Global Wholesale Banking Sustainability Office, OCBC Bank; Lin Qing Yao, Close-The-Loop Manager, TRIA; and Spencer Low, Chief Data and Sustainability Officer at SATS

(Left-Right) Mike Ng, Head of Global Wholesale Banking Sustainability Office, OCBC Bank; Lin Qing Yao, Close-The-Loop Manager, TRIA; and Spencer Low, Chief Data and Sustainability Officer at SATS. Image: OCBC Bank

Building Towards A More Sustainable Future

If successful, the two pilot programmes can look forward to further support from OCBC Bank and SATS. This is in line with OCBC’s aim to enable its corporate customers to improve their sustainable practices.

OCBC Bank’s Mike Ng, Head of Global Wholesale Banking Sustainability Office, elaborates that “there are many innovative ideas out there that can be developed and commercialised. Quite often, these ideas just need a little nudge to get them off the ground, and they may not necessarily require a lot of capital. With this initial funding from the OCBC Sustainability Innovation Challenge, TRIA and Enexor BioEnergy will be able to pilot their solutions in a real-world setting with SATS and contribute further to SATS’ objective of sustainable food waste management”.

He also hinted that future editions of the OCBC Sustainability Innovation Challenge could see the bank identifying and addressing challenge statements in different industries with other OCBC customers. He explained that “as we support our customers along their sustainability journey, we will in turn drive OCBC’s own progress towards the decarbonisation of our lending and investment portfolios, hence it is a win-win for customers, ourselves and the environment”.

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