Why and how did you decide to become one of the founders of EcoDrive?
It was really Yolanda Choy-Tang who brought us all together. After chatting with her about my dream of Hong Kong sorting garbage like Japan, I thought, maybe it doesn’t have to be a dream. Maybe with the support of this passionate group, we can highlight something that’s usually forgotten, pushed aside, and regarded as a dirty business.
Tell us about your personal background when it comes to environmental issues.
To be honest, I haven’t done anything when it comes to environmental issues recently. When I worked at Stella McCartney, I was educated on the animal abuse that occurs in fur or exotic skin farms and the importance of her vegan line of fashion.
When I was at L’Oreal, I was informed about the difference between chemical and natural ingredients and why some is necessary and some is not. I was also told about which countries require animal testing and which countries don’t.
And over 30 years ago, I was inspired after spending a year in Australia to start an Environmental Club at German Swiss International School in the 90’s. I can still remember Mrs. Peart, the then geography teacher, screaming at a school assembly, at the students, about the mystery of a diaper placed in the paper recycling collection cage, thus contaminating the collection.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? The issues never go away and new ones arise. After seeing the film A Plastic Ocean with Yolanda again and viewing our own film Start Small Start Now, it’s even more clear than before that we must not give up. We have to continue to raise awareness and educate as much as we can.
Why are you passionate about reducing single-use plastics?
At first, I had faith in recycling. When told of the extreme low recycling rates, the lack of compatibility with garbage collection logistics planning and routing, and the dire view of the economics of recycling businesses in Hong Kong, I became less hopeful with recycling being the solution. And given that virgin plastic material is needed for each round of recycled plastic production, it’s easy to conclude that for plastic waste management, recycling is NOT the answer. Reduction is.
But plastics are not all bad, often times much needed, like as medical and emergency supplies.
So we focus on single-use plastics because currently over five million PET bottles are thrown out in HK daily. Surely that’s not necessary. We focus on single-use plastics because we believe people can change their habits on how they use plastics, once they realize the true cost of convenience.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to plastics usage in HK?
Unique to Hong Kong? Umbrella bags, bread bags, fruit socks and the triple plastic wrapped fruits. I know we live in a humid climate, but apples don’t need plastic wrapping.
Also, all the extravagant packaging for gifts. I like gifts as much as the next person, but I do not need the outer box to be five times the size of the actual gift so extra plastic padding is almost certainly needed.
What actions have you taken in your own life and/or business to help reduce plastic waste?
For my own daily life, it’s really about creating a new habit and my new one is if I don’t need it, I should only be allowed to consumer it in a single-use plastic free manner.
So, if I want a coffee, I either give the baristas my own reusable coffee cup or I chose a café that actually serves coffee in proper ceramics that’s of course reusable. And if neither is available, I don’t have the coffee. There is need and there is want. If it’s just want, then let’s skip the single-use plastics!
Business-wise, I was so guilty, but I learned. In the past, Punch Detox has produced a lot of plastic bottles. And now I know, that even though our bottles were 100% biodegradable, Hong Kong’s landfill conditions are not favorable to that and therefore not allow for any biodegradable products to properly degrade in an oxygen- and sunlight-lacking environment. Now, Punch Detox only take made-to-order business for large groups where they provide us with their own bottles.
Next time you are in front of a selection of drinks and you need to drink something other than water, pick something in a can or glass bottle. The recycling rates for those materials are slightly higher and they won’t get into the food chain as much as plastics would because little fishies can’t take a bite off of them!