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5 simple ways to reduce plastic usage (and save money too)

Take care of the Earth and your bank account

By Time Out Hong Kong
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Attempting to tackle Hong Kong’s plastic waste crisis might seem like an overwhelming task, especially given that 2,000 tonnes of plastic, which amounts to 20 percent of Hong Kong’s overall waste, is sent to landfills every day and a whopping 17 million pieces of plastic waste are flushed into the sea surrounding the city every year.

While recycling is, of course, one route you can go down to help reduce waste pollution, it’s far more effective to limit the amount of plastic we use in the first place, and you would be surprised how much money you save in the process, too. Since it’s Plastic Free July, check out these five simple ways you can ditch plastic from your life and help make a big difference in cleaning up Hong Kong. By Sophie Pettit

RECOMMENDED: Still keen to include some retail therapy in your life without being wasteful? These sustainable and eco-friendly shops in Hong Kong should do the trick. 

How to reduce plastic usage in Hong Kong

Stop buying plastic water bottles

Enough with the Watsons water bottles already! While it’s important to stay hydrated when we’re out and about in the city, single-use plastic bottles are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to Hong Kong’s devastating waste crisis. In fact, an astonishing 5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away every day in the city. While local companies like Watsons are attempting to incentivise Hongkongers to recycle their water bottles (in exchange for cash coupons at vending machines), eco-conscious brands such as S’well, which you can get at shops like Thorn and BurrowLion Rock Press, and Pura are selling reusable bottles to help eliminate the problem.

Some of these affordable products, which range from around $80 to $250, are even made from stainless steel and are vacuum insulated in order to keep your water refreshingly chilled when you’re on the run. When you consider how much money you will save in the long-run by carrying your own bottle with you rather than swinging by Watsons or 7-Eleven repeatedly, it’s well worth investing in one, especially when you can even fill it up for free at the various water fountains around Hong Kong using the handy Water For Free app. Buying a good quality water filter for your home will also save you plenty of dollars and help you reduce waste significantly in the long-run.

Reuseable straws
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Say no to plastic straws

While many Hong Kong bars and restaurants (including McDonald’s on a Monday) have joined the ‘No Straw Campaign’ and have switched to offering customers biodegradable ones, or none at all, the issue is far from being resolved. In fact, an estimated 1.44 billion plastic straws are disposed of each year in Hong Kong, which contributes heavily towards the overall waste problem. Aside from remembering to ask for “no straw, please” when ordering a drink, another solution is to bring your own reusable one with you if you really can’t go without one. Bamboo and stainless steel are popular choices of material, and with zero waste stores like Live Zero and Slowood selling straws of all sorts of sizes and widths (ranging from $25 to $32), you won’t be short on options. Online retailers like Sinfreestraws and Plastic Free HK have some excellent ones on offer, and you will even find some extra wide ones to cater for all the bubble tea addicts. While this particular tip won’t save you money per se, it will help you make an important difference in the long run.

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Ecocoffee Cup

Invest in a reusable coffee mug

Coffee addicts can enjoy their caffeine kick without the guilt by investing in a stylish reusable mug instead of using their local café’s plastic lids and paper cups. There are so many options on the market now that we are totally spoilt for choice. Among the most popular brands are The Lion Rock Press’ famous #NoPlasticMmGoi Eco Cup ($180), the Ecoffee Cup ($94-$117), Keep Cups (around $250) and the Café Plus collection (from $21.5). Several large coffee shop chains, including Pret a Manger, Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, and The Coffee Academics, are now incentivising customers to bring their own cup by offering discounts and upgrades on drinks. Many of them also sell their own branded collection of reusable mugs to help you make the positive switch the next time you need that little pick-me-up.

Lush shampoo bars

Stock up on shampoo bars

Save room in your shower rack – and your suitcase – by stocking up on handy shampoo bars instead of chunky plastic bottles of hair product. While Live Zero ($85) offers a basic bar made from natural oils, Lush boasts an amazing collection ($118) in all sorts of colours and scents for various hair types. They even provide vegan options and affordable little tins to keep your bars dry. These concentrated pucks of shampoo can outlast two to three bottles of liquid product, each lasting up to around 80 washes, saving you valuable dollars in the long-run too. Hong Kong-based brand Eko Savon also sells a range of handcrafted shaving bars, conditioner bars and facial bars (from $70) allowing you to eliminate even more plastic and foam canisters from your bathroom cabinets.

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Brave the Mooncup

Using a reusable menstrual cup might sound a little daunting, but with growing concern over the plastic content in disposable tampons and menstrual pads – not to mention the individual wrappers and plastic applicators that come with them – it’s hardly surprising that many women are turning to eco-friendly alternatives. Aptly named the ‘Mooncup’, this clever invention means you will never have to spend money on female sanitary products again. And with the average woman using and throwing away up to 14,000 tampons in a lifetime, that’s a lot of money saved when you add it up. The Mooncup is made from soft medical grade silicone and can be easily folded and inserted into your – let’s say, lady garden – and removed every eight hours or so. This product is designed to be comfortable, convenient and, above all else, safe. It can also be used overnight and when travelling, swimming or exercising. They usually cost around $300 and are available from specialist online stores such as Lady Garden HK and MCup HK, as well as major supermarkets like ParknShop.

Kick start your zero waste lifestyle here

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