What if everything we threw out of our homes had our name on it? What if everything that we discarded had its value printed on it? The cost of packaging? The value of the wasted food? If in dollar terms we could see just how much our trash bins were worth at the end of the day; in real amounts the cost of our garbage.
What would that mean? Would we waste less?
What if we physically had to hand over how much ‘garbage’ we produced on a daily or a weekly basis to a stranger or to someone we knew. What changes would this evoke? Would it be embarrassing to see how much food was wasted, how many still usable items were discarded because you changed your mind, it was slightly broken or the color scheme in your kitchen/bedroom/lounge changed and a particular item no longer matched.
What if you had to make public how much you threw away as unseparated trash? Would it make you recycle more or teach your helper or family to separate your garbage for recycling?
What if you knew that in 1000 years your trash could be dug from a landfill where it had been preserved in a dry sealed mummified form and that future archaeologists would find all your trash documenting how wasteful our lifestyles in 2013 were?
What if you had no one to collect or takeaway your trash and you had to store it for a week, a month or a year. The average person in HK generates 1.36kg of trash per day which is about 500kg per person per year – 2 tonnes of waste for a family of 4.
What would this mean? If you knew the value of your trash would you be less like to buy things that wasted your money? More likely to voice your dissatisfaction with paying so much for packaging? Recycle or compost where you could to get the most value from your products and not see future resources squandered?
Use less? Eat less? Waste less? Think more about the impact you have? Be a more conscious consumer?
What if on your packet of biscuits/coffee cup lid/disposable fork/straw/plastic bottle cap it was printed with its final resting place? What would you think if your biscuit packet sat in landfill forever, your coffee cup lid ended up in the middle of the ocean, your disposable fork stuck in a drain, the straw on the high tide line of your local beach and the plastic bottle cap ingested by a seabird? Would it make you think more about using it and discarding it so easily?
Photo: Chris Jordan
For some who are in HK for only a couple of years, will their individual legacy be a tonne of trash? Dismissed as somebody else’s problem. Will one lifetime in HK leave behind a 41 tonne waste legacy*? This city with a spend, buy, consume attitude … the old mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle should really be changed to reduce, reduce, reduce!
Maybe then we will really make a difference with this waste crisis we are facing. Only one simple word to remember. Only one simple concept to embrace.
Reduce waste, reduce packaging, reduce disposables, reduce unconscious consumption …
*Lifetime = approx. 83 yrs for Hong Kong