I was lucky enough to visit Hong Kong twice this year, the first as a tourist, the second time on business. I was captivated by the skyscraper skyline of Victoria Harbour, enjoyed the panoramic views from Ozone and The Peak, and the beautiful beaches of Stanley.
This was all as a leisurely visitor, however, returning later for business meetings gave me a somewhat different insight to the city. Attending meetings meant travelling beyond the cosmopolitan bright lights to reveal piles of rubbish in huge bins, spilling onto the streets. There were so many discarded plastic bottles and containers. Frail ladies were gathering cardboard and pushing it around on trollies. The stench emanating from drains in parts must surely have an impact on health. But primarily it was the vast amount of mixed waste created by shops and the fact that, other than the airport, I saw no recycling bins so prevalent in the UK to enable waste separation.
During one of my meetings I met with Paola Cortese – a zero waster, a nomenclature new to me. Her passion for change and helping others to reduce the amount of waste they create was contagious. She opened my eyes to the serious issue of waste management in Hong Kong, something we take for granted in the UK; we have been separating our waste voluntarily for years attempting to avoid landfill, although it was only made compulsory in 2007. Unlike Germany it is not subsidised by our Government, residents pay for the service through their Council Tax.
Having now returned home, all I see is plastic – it’s everywhere – and so difficult to avoid. I decided to get in touch with Paola and ask for some private coaching so I could speed up the process of reducing my waste from one bin full per week, to one per month as a starting point. She was delighted to help and we devised a plan with regular Skype calls to report on progress and share and resolve any issues.
But my goodness it’s been frustrating along the way. When did it become a trend to put black straws in so many drinks? And why when you say no straw, does one still arrive? And we live in such a world of convenience that practically everything comes wrapped and ready. But happily, and just five weeks later, I have already reduced my rubbish to two bags per month and all set to reduce this to one – bang on target!
I now buy my fruit and veg from the owners of our local farm shop who encourage every customer to go green and bring their own bags, and my local butcher is also quite happy to place my meat directly in fridge and freezer ready containers.
My Skype coaching sessions with Paola are invaluable; she has so many tips and solutions, but for me the most effective so far has been the ability to refuse.