Daniel Tay is the co-founder of SG Food Rescue, whose fellow food rescuers collect 6,000kg of food waste every month, most of which gets distributed to Singapore’s food-insecure. Tay, a freegan, eats and uses only waste food and items in order to save money and help reduce waste in the environment.
Are you a rebel?
No. I don’t set out to rebel against authority or society. I do what I do because it makes sense. I’ve known since young that I’m rather extreme so for some time, I fell into depression because I was trying to suppress who I really was and to become someone I knew I wasn’t. But one day, I decided to stop caring about how others thought of me. I started to embrace myself and rediscovered what brought me happiness.
How did you deal with naysayers?
When I started SG Food Rescue, I was surprised that 70 percent of the people I met were encouraging — they believed in my cause and wanted to support it. Only 20 percent were negative while 10 percent were vitriolic. I try to educate the negative about my cause, but with the vitriolic, I just block out what they say.
Do you think anyone sees you as a mischief maker?
There are two types of people who may find me so. The first values “face”. They believe only the very poor will stoop to such depths. I do not share such values. The second worships consumerism. They believe in infinite economic growth at all costs, and that how I live is not sustainable and will cause an economic breakdown. But inﬁ nite economic growth is impossible on our physically ﬁ nite planet. We are already seeing signs of environmental breakdown and will continue to see more.
The last time you got into trouble for your cause?
A neighbour reported my activities to the Urban Redevelopment Authority thinking I was running an illegal smuggling operation. The officers came to check if I was using the apartment as a warehouse but found nothing illegal. This neighbour continues to stalk us, take photos of our visitors and their vehicles, and curses us every so often.
What keeps you going?
If you do good by helping others, you build good karma and connections, then help will come along when you need it.
This story first appeared in the October 2019 issue of A.