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If Paul Foster were the Mayor of Singapore, he would introduce a programme that’ll encourage his compatriots to recycle more.

“If people recycle enough, they should be given a rebate on their utilities bills,” the actor-host-eco-activists suggests. “Incentives are always a good thing.”

Foster is one of the participants in Planet Possible Day, a live virtual event on National Geographic Asia’s Facebook happening this evening (Oct 24), aimed at raising environmental awareness.

In the ‘Choice in an Urban Setting’ segment, Foster and Indonesia’s National Geographic Explorer and climatologist will discuss the plastic waste menace and ways to undo the destruction it caused.

In real life, Foster is the Mayor of Singapore — as one of the cast members on Singapore Social, Netflix’s ‘unscripted’ reality drama following the lives of a group of affluent young Singaporeans.

There's a funny story behind that nickname, says Foster, digressing a bit. “We were filming at Tanjong Beach Club and I was just going around catching up with everyone I knew there — and it so happened to be a lot of people.”

“That was why [co-star] Sukki [Singapora] joked that I was the Mayor of Singapore because I knew everyone,” Foster tells 8days.sg over Zoom recently. “And that label kinda stuck since.”

Mayor or not, Foster is serious about saving the environment. He says that he’s always cared about nature, but it wasn’t until a few years ago circa 2016-7 when he read about how much plastics were in the ocean that he set out to be more proactive in clean-up groups and fundraisers.

A 2017 study (per the Smithsonian Institute) found that about 79,000 metric tons of plastic are floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, while another 2017 study estimated that 8.5 million metric tons settle on the ocean bottom per year.

“Those crazy stats blew me away,” the Polo Boys actor says. “We need to do better.”

Foster believes everything starts at home. At home (a rented house in the East), he recycles religiously. “Every week, I have one or two bags of recyclables thrown into my blue bin,” he says. “I compost as well.”

All in all, he reckons about “70 per cent” of his trash is either recycled or composted.

Does he eat meat? “I still eat meat,” he says. “I do go meatless 2-4 times a week. I do a lot of things in my daily life — like planting trees — to off my carbon footprint.”

On top of that, Foster is also an investor in Crust, a local company that makes beer from upcycling food waste and loss. He says, “I love beer, I love to support local, and I love that what they are doing for the environment.”

He won’t reveal how much he put in but will say that the investment is enough for him to be “a silent partner and involved in the business."

In 2020, Singapore generated 868,000 tonnes of plastic waste but only 4 per cent of it was recycled, according to the National Environment Agency

Foster believes more than be done to educate people on the proper way of recycling. It pains him to see folks treating the blue bins like the Salvation Army dumpster where they throw anything in there.

Another recycling pet peeve: people who don't wash their recyclables before discarding them. “You only need one fella to contaminate the rest of the batch,” Foster fumes.

But he’s hopeful that our waste management habits will improve. “I am always optimistic,” he says. “I feel that if we are not, we are going down a dark road with no light at the end of the tunnel. So yes, optimistic always, we can tip the scales and turn it around.”

Foster is, however, less positive of a second season of Singapore Social. “Well, even if there were talks of season 2, with the pandemic, everything is canned,” he says. “I would love to carry on, but everyone is now doing their own thing.”

Foster can be seen in an upcoming episode of CrimeWatch. “Me, Nat Ho and Shenthy [Feliziana] did one scene — it’s very cool,” he says. “A bunch of old-school actors getting together.”  

He continues, “The last time I worked with Shenthy was on Walimah 2 for Suria and Nat Ho on the travel show No Sleep No Fomo. Now years later, of all the things we get to work together again is CrimeWatch!”

Planet Possible Day airs today (Oct 24), 6pm on National Geographic Asia’s Facebook page.

Photo: National Geographic Asia

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