All your household waste can fit in a jar, according to this Hong Kong start-up

Hong Kong resident on quest to reduce the amount of waste generated by residents and business in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 4:56pm

Paola Cortese uses a tumbler for her drinks, a metal box for her food, reusable cutlery, and a reusable bag wherever she goes. These steps, and some careful planning, have meant she can fit all her household waste from the past six months in a Mason jar.

The former interior designer and Hong Kong resident since 2015, is leading a personal mission to reduce the rubbish generated in the city after being inspired by the zero-waste movement around the world.

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“In late 2015, [my fiance and I] moved to Hong Kong ... and realised we have so much stuff and Hong Kong apartments are so small, so I had to declutter,” Cortese said, leading her to also reduce her own household waste.

“I found the game-changer to be if you have a composting strategy, a recycling strategy, and refusing certain things. That helps to reduce around 80 per cent of your waste.”

Using her knowledge of having a zero-waste lifestyle, Cortese founded her company, LoopUnite!, to teach individuals and businesses ways to adopt a zero-waste strategy.

Hong Kong is notorious for generating large amounts of refuse in the regional context, with a typical Hongkonger throwing out about 1.39kg of household waste every day. The average person living in Tokyo generates 0.77kg of domestic waste – nearly half that of Hong Kong.

To bring down the average amount of waste discarded per individual by 40 per cent by 2022, a waste charge is to take effect in Hong Kong in 2019.

In the first six months of Cortese’s campaign, she generated less than 1 per cent of the waste produced by the average Hongkonger,to prove that it can be done. But hard lifestyle choices had to be made to reduce waste to such a tiny level.

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“With these things I can refuse a lot of things like coffee cups ... disposable cutlery, disposable plastic [packaging], and plastic bags,” she said, adding that the move means forgoing convenience.

“The basic thinking is: there are alternatives out there, you just need to look for them.”

She admitted that she has to withstand some odd looks when asking for her takeout to be put in her own box, but most shops are accommodating.

Composting is also an alien concept to a concrete jungle such as Hong Kong, but if individuals composted, and a collection strategy was in place, it would help to reduce food waste and reduced the need for landfills, according to project officer for environmental NGO, Friends of the Earth, Wendell Chan.

While Chan calls for individuals to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle, he believes that without it being implemented on a commercial level, the real impacts will not be significant enough.

“The issue is how do you integrate this problem from environmental-social governance into corporate responsibility,” he said.