Single-use plastic straws, bags, cutlery and packaging. You only need to look around the average home or office to see that we rely on this non-biodegradable substance far too much
From supermarkets to food delivery services and even some of our favourite bars, single-use plastic in Hong Kong is an epidemic. In a bid to help you live a more plastic-free life, we’ve got some suggestions that will be easy to implement into your regular routine. You don’t have to change your habits in one foul swoop though, try adding something new to your life every few weeks, and you will soon be on your way to a more eco-friendly existence.
How to reduce single-use plastic in Hong Kong
#1. Buy yourself a water filter
Have you fallen into the trap of buying plastic bottles of water every time that you visit the supermarket? Here’s something that will actually change your life: buy a water filter. Not only will you have drinkable water on hand 24/7, you will end up spending less on your H2O long term. Plus, who likes lugging those huge bottles of water around anyway?
Our favourite brand of filter is Aquasana, as they create products to specifically target the nasty hard metals in Hong Kong water. I honestly don’t know how I lived before my Aquasana AQ-4000-DVPI Claryum Water Filter was installed – #thisisnotanad. It’s small enough to fit in our tiny kitchen, and at just $998, can you really afford not have one?
#2. Switch to sustainable toothbrushes
So apparently around 100 million toothbrushes are thrown away every year in Hong Kong alone; just imagine how many toothbrushes that is across the entire world! Make the switch to sustainable varieties now, and you’ll make a big impact. We are loving the bamboo version from agooday that is crafted from sustainable bamboo plantations in Taiwan.
#3. Shop at the wet markets
One of the most painful experiences in Hong Kong is going to the supermarket seeing all the produce wrapped in single-use plastic. Avoid the heartache and shop at the wet markets instead. Not only are they full of amazing sights, sounds and smells, but they are also some of the few places in Hong Kong where you can buy things that are not excessively wrapped in plastic (fancy a plastic bag, with your plastic-wrapped goodies, anyone?)
Take your own shopping bag or container along for a plastic-free experience and collect your selection of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs in the basket. Then make sure to explain that you have your own bag before you cash out. We love to go to the wet market on Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun as it’s huge and the range is phenomenal.
We understand that you may want to find delivery options for fresh vegetables too, so take a look at our guide to grocery delivery.
#4. Please, please, please stop using balloons
Call us the party poopers, but balloons are one of the worst forms of single-use plastic abuse in Hong Kong. Every night sees more and more events taking place, with latex balloons strung up in the hundreds if not thousands. Sorry to burst your bubble, but these plastic monstrosities end up in our waterways, and they can not be broken down, so undoubtedly end up in the stomach of some poor marine animal. Don’t worry though, as there are sustainable decorating alternatives, such as bunting, paper streamers and live plants available to liven up your next party. We love the floral fabric bunting available at Little Days in Hong Kong.
#5. Let’s talk about glitter…
Say it ain’t so! Honestly, I love glitter as much (or possibly even more) than the next person, but this sparkly substance is made out of non-biodegradable materials like copolymer plastic and aluminium foil. That shouldn’t take the shine out of your life though because you can now easily find eco-friendly glitter online (from shops like Eco Stardust) that will help you rid your life of single-use plastic in Hong Kong!
#6. Switch from liquid beauty products to solid bars
You might feel like this is taking it old school, but liquid soap was only a gimmick anyway, right (did you ever have it when you were little?) Bars of soap are plastic-free and you can buy solid bars of shampoo at loads of placing across town, including Lush. We promise that they work just as well, plus the natural flavours they come in are DIVINE.
#7. Buy in bulk with reusable containers
Open up your pantry right now and look inside. How many plastic-wrapped goodies can you spy? If you want to make a difference, start shopping in bulk at grocery stores like Live Zero Bulk Foods, where you can take your own containers and fill them up with staples like cacao powder, dried apricots, couscous, pasta, oil and loads more.
Check out our full list of where to shop waste-free groceries in Hong Kong.
#8. Think about how you store your food
If you want to ditch single-use plastic in Hong Kong, then it’s best to avoid plastic wrap. Switch over to something like Beeswax Wrap from Delightfully Green. This reusable product is made out of edible beeswax from local farms in Hong Kong and is available in a bunch of different sizes from apple to watermelon.
#9. Take your own coffee cup
We hate to break it to you, but most takeaway coffee cups are lined with plastic, and don’t even get us started on iced coffee containers… The best solution is really to take your own, and the team over at Live Zero have a great selection of options and sizes for you to choose from (we love the Stojo, pictured above, that collapses to fit in your handbag or back pack.)
#10. Invest in a reusable lunch box
It’s really easy to get in the habit of buying lunch every day in Hong Kong, but if you stop and think about all the plastic your noodles, sandwiches and crisps are package in, it should be alarming. A good way to help cut down on single-use plastic in Hong Kong is to start taking your lunch in a reusable container. One great option for this Prepd, a modular lunch box that not only looks amazing on Instagram, but also comes with an App that includes recipes that feature a nutritional breakdown for each dish. Love!
#11. Carry your own utensils
Did you know that Greenpeace did a poll in 2017 that showed that 66 per cent of Hong Kongers use disposable cutlery every time they dine out? Those stats are horrifying. If you regularly eat at restaurants that only offer plastic utensils, then be sure to invest in a portable cutlery set, like this offering from Black Temptation. This is one of the biggest changes you can make when it comes to reducing single-use plastic in Hong Kong.
#12. Say no to the straw
Hong Kong loves to put a straw in everything. I honestly have never been so assaulted by straws as what I have been in my eight years here. While I get that a lot of this has to do with hygiene etc, there is just no reason to be using plastic straws anymore. Grab a few bamboo straws from Bamboa to keep in your bag, or opt for some stainless steel straws from Plastic-Free HK who even offer fat ones for the bubble tea obsessed (now, what to do about those plastic cups…). And don’t forget to always, always, always say “no straw” before you order any drink. The cool people over at Plastic-Free HK even made a great video if you’re not sure how to say it in Cantonese (see here.)
#13. Take your own shopping bag
To reduce single-plastic in Hong Kong, shops are required to charge a 50-cent fee. While it’s great that HK has charges for plastic bags as mandatory, frankly we think they should be banned altogether, or all shops should have to switch to paper. In the meantime, there is no excuse for not taking your own shopping bag. You can pick up reusable bags at most supermarkets to carry in your handbag in case of emergency, or if you’re heading out for a big shop, be sure to take your backpack!
#14. Become a four eyes
Hands up if you wear contact lenses? Hands up if you wear daily contact lenses? Then you know just how much plastic waste accrues in your bathroom rubbish bin every week. One way to combat this is to invest in a good pair of glasses, and places like EGG Optical Boutique now make this option super stylish and affordable. Yes, most lenses nowadays are made from plastic, but even if you switch to spectacles a few times of week, you will be helping reduce single-use plastic in Hong Kong long term.
Find out where to shop cheap prescription glasses in Hong Kong.
#15. Shop plastic-free packaging
There are plenty of brands that have switched to packaging that is eco-friendly and biodegradable in order to minimize the devastating impact plastic has on our environment. Amongst our favourites are ZeroYet100 and ecostore. Be sure to check for an ecostore refillable station near you – there are 15 refill stations in Hong Kong – so you can cut down on single-use plastics.
#16. If you do buy plastic bottles, recycle them!
Did you know about the Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) Pilot Scheme? If you have used plastic bottles that are recyclable, you can collect them and then go to one of these machines around Hong Kong. You’ll have to scan the barcode and the RVM will detect if the bottle is recyclable or not. Then you simply chuck it in and get value added to your Octopus in return!
#17. Start composting
Cooking up a storm at home? Don’t just chuck all the fruit and vegetable peels in the bin without a second thought. Not only does this increase waste and the usage of plastic garbage bags, it’s also not helping the problem of landfills running out of space. Check out where the compost drop-off bins are in Hong Kong to find one in your neighborhood.