Story of Interest
Disposable-Free Takeaway – First Automatic Reusable Meal Container Lending and Returning System Launched in HKUST
One-time use disposables are a classic “systems thinking” failure; while they provide an easy solution for collecting food, they create downstream problems by crowding our landfills and trashing our waterways. Even if the containers could be recycled (which they cannot), it would still be a “downstream” solution because the damage is already done. Systems thinking approaches tend to focus on upstream solutions – in this case, eliminating the disposables at the source.
To showcase upstream thinking and address this pressing issue, the Jockey Club Sustainable Consumer Programme (JCSCCP) has developed a smart, AI-driven bespoke system for lending and collecting reusable meal containers on local university campuses. The pilot system has been installed on the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s (HKUST) Clear Water Bay campus, and it will be rolled out on the campuses of all eight members of the Hong Kong Sustainable Campus Consortium during Fall 2023.
The goal of the JCSCCP is to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, by reducing single-use disposables on campuses and promoting shift towards a circular economy. The system makes use of internal cameras and AI Object Recognition software to make the borrow and return easily accessible for users 24/7, with a built-in rewards program to encourage the development of responsible consumption mindsets.
This system is not the first upstream solution in Hong Kong; last year Food Panda unveiled their new reusable packaging pilot program for delivery, and MUUSE has been making steady inroads with their reusable containers at coffee shops and restaurants across Hong Kong. Circular City is also introducing a beautifully designed reusable aluminium hot drink cup to usher in what they call the #reuserevolution.
Like these others, the JCSCCP lending system focuses on waste reduction from the source, minimizing the waste generated from disposable lunch boxes and lessening the burden on Hong Kong landfills. The system will be rolled out to all eight UGC-funded universities in the Fall, and if the system is successful could be available for schools and businesses shortly afterward.