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INTERVIEW: CLAIRE YATES

We had a chat with Claire Yates from Eco Drive, who dedicate in promoting the awareness and reduction of single-use plastic in Hong Kong.

Claire Yates

1) Please tell us more about Eco-Drive and what had motivated you to co-found this company?

EcoDrive is a non-profit organisation established by 11 women from a variety of backgrounds including self-starters, lawyers, entrepreneurs but most importantly, mothers, who passionately want to make Hong Kong a better place for their children. We promote the awareness and reduction of single-use plastic in Hong Kong through education, connecting with corporate, and providing possible solutions. By motivating and driving each individual to make a lifestyle change, we believe together we can all be part of the solution. Single-use plastics are polluting our cities and our oceans. It is affecting our environment and contributing to health problems in humans and animals.  At EcoDrive, we are focused on promoting a change, and believe this is a local problem which requires local solutions.  To spread our message, we have produced a short film called “Start Small, Start Now: Hong Kong’s Plastic Story” (available in both English and Cantonese) which is available on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMr_rn3DpeQa65yT5AgI63w).

2) Do you think Hong Kong has the capability to be more eco-friendly than we are now?

Not just HK- everywhere in the world has greater capability to be more sustainable. It’s about challenging the old way of doing things and being ready for change.  Our citizens need to consider their individual impact on the environment of the choices we make.  For example, our 7 million citizens throw away more than 6 million plastic bottles every day. Only a tiny percentage of these get recycled. The rest end up in our landfills and waterways where they will live on for hundreds of years. If people could use a refillable bottle, coupled with education from the government about clean recycling, and a more efficient municipal waste management programme, this problem could be eliminated.  We need to stop being seeing this virtually indestructible material as “disposable”.  In addition, I would like to see Hong Kong significantly reducing its reliance on Styrofoam, see people drinking less boxed drinks, and to properly regulate and enforce the municipal recycling facilities.

3) Even though Hong Kong has come a long way, what do you think this city still lacks when it comes to sustainability?

We still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful because I’ve seen such a huge change in awareness over the last 12 months.  How can we do better? Too many ways which we don’t have time for today! The main thing is to educate our citizens on the problem, and help them to start living more consciously day to day. Be aware of how the decisions they make can affect our environment and ultimately our health.  The more we talk to each other, to the businesses that serve us and to our local representatives, the sooner we will see real change in these areas.

4) What is your day to day habit on being more green and sustainable? Any simple tips and tricks to share with our readers?

I try to live as single-use plastic free as I can, despite having young children.  As a family, including our helper, we never leave home without our #NoPlasticMmGoi bottles from @thelionrockpress and, as a result, none of us have bought a plastic bottle of water or beverage in 18 months.  We’ve also removed clingfilm/glad-wrap from our home and replaced it with beeswax wrap from Plastic Free HK, or clip-close Tupperware. When shopping, I always take my canvas #NoPlasticMmGoi tote bag, plus other reusable bags so that I don’t require plastic ones.  I take my reusable containers to the supermarket or wet market so my meat and fish won’t need packaging.  Where possible, I buy all my groceries loose- whether that’s in the supermarket, wet market or at a zero waste store such as Live Zero in Sai Ying Pun where I buy most of my dry goods like rice, flour, pasta and cereal as well as salt, sugar, and spices.  I take containers to Live Zero so I can fill up with their liquid detergent, dish washing liquid and shampoo- I love the mint one.  I haven’t bought any cleaning products in plastic bottles since I started using that store.  At home, we have an under-the-counter water filter from Waterlinks so we know we can completely trust the water as we live in an old building.  We try and have as little waste as possible, and we are always looking into new ways of making our environmental impact smaller.  I’ve bought everyone in my office reusable lunch containers, metal cutlery, reusable coffee mugs and water bottles which they take out to the restaurants and bring their lunch back- or they eat in.  Some great ways to #StartSmallStartNow are to take a reusable water bottle with you as part of your daily routine.  Download the app “Water for Free” and learn how easy it is to fill up on-the-go completely free and easily. Using a reusable coffee cup is another obvious one, or refusing plastic straws. Use your social media power to shout out about companies who are doing a good job- vote with your dollars and give them your patronage to encourage them to keep up the great work!  In the same way, if you see your favourite restaurants, bars or shops not making the changes you want to see- tell them! Ask to speak with the manager, write an email or send them a message on social media asking them to re-consider their choices. Your voice is the greatest tool for change.

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