The Zero Waste Alliance: reducing restaurant waste through collaboration
Bobsy Gaia, Founder, MANA! and Chair, Zero Waste Alliance of Restaurants HK
This month we launched the Zero Waste Alliance of Restaurants HK – bringing together 12 restaurant brands and partners to prevent and minimise restaurant waste.
Our vision is for a sustainable food and beverage sector in Hong Kong. That means taking wasteful products out of restaurants, replacing plastics with sustainable alternatives, encouraging customers to bring their own containers, and avoiding single-use products. It also means establishing systems to turn waste into useful resources.
Hong Kong has a big waste problem. We produce significantly more per person compared to similar Asian cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei. The food and beverage is a huge contributor; consider how much throwaway packaging you receive every time you go out for lunch. Now multiply that for every café and individual in Hong Kong.
At MANA! we have been actively promoting zero waste and sustainability as an integral part of our business model since we launched four years ago. We serve organic plant-based food and drink, use only compostable and biodegradable packaging, and operate at zero food waste. We encourage customers to separate their waste into the bins provided.
Yet, in any restaurant business, kitchen cuttings are unavoidable, as is uneaten food from customers’ plates, pulp from juicing etc. From day one, we have employed a driver and van to transport these from our three cafes in Soho and Sheung Wan to organic farms in the New Territories, where they are composted. This compost can then create good soil to be used to grow more healthy vegetables, so creating a virtuous loop.
Doing all this undoubtedly creates extra costs. Through conversations with like-minded restaurant owners in our neighbourhood, and an approach from Sustainable Business HK, we realised there are many others who share our values and goals. We figured we could move further, faster – and potentially reduce our costs – by working together.
A group of us met for the first time in May this year. Since then things have moved quickly: we have met seven times in as many months; agreed our vision, mission and strategic priorities; launched our name and logo at the second annual Zero Waste Global Summit in Hong Kong, produced by Ecozine; and reached out to local partners and global pioneers in the zero waste movement.
Most importantly, this November we began a pilot scheme with Baguio Green Group. Baguio is now collecting recyclable materials and food waste directly from Alliance members’ restaurants on a daily basis. Through Baguio’s established partnerships, the different types of waste are redistributed, reprocessed and resold.
But this is just the start. We want to increase composting; take advantage of the organic waste-to-energy facilities being built by Government; collect, identify and compost plant plastics in the intended way; encourage more restaurants to adopt zero waste principles; and allow more of them, in more neighbourhoods, to plug into our solutions.
We are also working to establish the Zero Waste Alliance as an independent entity, and to secure corporate funding to help realise our vision.
We consider this a vital project to benefit all of Hong Kong. But it won’t work if it’s just us. We invite individuals and companies, large and small, to do your bit by raising awareness, joining the movement, and offering your relevant skills and resources.
In addition to our growth, we hope the Zero Waste Alliance will inspire similar partnership in other sectors – driving zero waste principles, circular economy solutions, and collaboration as a model to enhance collective impact.
The views of guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of HKCSS, the Caring Company Scheme or Sustainable Business HK.