Lizette Smook's Blog

Lizette studied at Stellenbosch University in South Africa where she completed a Bachelor of Science Degree. In 1991 Lizette obtained her ATI (Associate to the Textile Institute) In Manchester UK, and in 2003 Lizette graduated at Henley Business School in the UK where she completed her general MBA. Over the past 29 years Lizette has worked for and made valuable contributions to Woolworths, Nike and Next Sourcing Limited which allowed Lizette to develop extensive networks and exclusive lifestyle products including garments that are of the highest quality. Innovasians are involved in the raw materials and own the supply chain of their products. Through 'Added Value ' the product range is unique. Lizette is CEO of this unique company and has managed to obtain a blue chip customer base.

What can we all do to reduce the impact on the environment?

Changing our own behaviour
September 19, 2012

In Hong Kong we can buy what we want, when we want it. Convenience of retail operating hours is tailored to convenience and we can mostly buy anything we want at hours not generally available to most other Western Countries.
The ‘good’ life we lead is reflected in the refuse we discard to landfill annually. Recent SCMP press declared Hong Kong to be the largest refuse dump in the world, as per capita we dispose of almost 1 ton (1000 kg) of ‘garbage’ annually. That is rated as the highest in the world. Statistics in terms of qualifying this varies in the media and we roughly get to a large portion of our ‘garbage’ is food waste (there is a lot of waste left on an Asian dining table where Western families were generally taught and forced to ‘eat what was on their plate’ as part of disciplined education AND then of course there is all the ‘due date or food expiry dates or best before’ that force a large portion of supermarket purchases to be discarded all though there is nothing wrong or no detrimental deterioration in quality).
Of course there is a large disposal rate of textiles as well – some 25 tons per annum. Maybe this is largely the hospitality bedding and towels as we would like to think and believe that HK people are well-dressed and wear designer labels/brands that do not really end up in landfill.
So what can we all do to reduce the impact on the environment through sending less to landfill and at the same time being more selective in what we send to landfill. Should this be the case – one would be able to declare a reduced impact on the environment.
So let’s first look at sending less to landfill.
In view of the products we touch and handle daily there is a breakdown of what we are sending to landfill daily:
I. Products that would still be in the landfill more than 1000 years would be:
i. E-Waste in computer circuit boards and other electronic appliances contain toxic materials such as chromium and Nickel
ii. Heavy metals never disappear – copper, iron and mercury, as well as chemicals in batteries, never degrades. Instead of polluting the environment – recycle these. Rechargeable batteries are another green option and will reduce guilt of environmental impact and reduce carbon footprint as well.
iii. Glass lasts up to 1000 years to degrade (10 decades). Bacteria, heat, acid in the soil or salt water in the ocean can accelerate this. There is no means to dissolve glass other than fracturing this in small pieces and leaving it to degrade.
II. Products that would still be in the landfill between 100 and 1000 years would be:
i. Polystyrene burger boxes and food containers can take up to 500 years to degrade. Recycling does not really happen as it is costly. Support organizations and retail who eliminated polystyrene
ii. Plastic Bags left in the sun, will be destroyed in one year by the UV rays of the sun, If buried or covered by dirt, it can last up to 200 years.
iii. Soda cans (aluminum) as well as tetra packs or ‘boxed’ packaging of soft drinks and pasteurized milk, can last up to 100 years. Fortunately aluminum is easy to recycle provided it is recycled or else can last for decades.
III. Products that would still be in the landfill between 1and 100 years would be:
i. Latex (balloons and gloves) – could stay in landfill for up to 20 years.
ii. Artificial materials (man made) such as PVC (faux leather) and rubber will degrade in 100 years. The materials are degraded through bacterial activity, as well as sunlight.
iii. Plastic bottles made from LDPE (Low density polyethylene) is lighter than PET (polyethylene teraftalate) and will degrade in 20 years
iv. Car tyres and rubber soled sneakers as well as basket balls will degrade in less than 80 years
IV. Products that would still be in the landfill less than 100 years would be:
i. pencils will be devoured by insects if left outdoors
ii. peels from fruits as well as left over vegetabkles will maybe last 6 months outdoors but will compost through activity of insects and bacteria
iii. Chewing Gum – due to colourants and chemicals it consists of, will degrade in 5 years
iv. Magazines, left out doors will degrade in 6 months but can be recycled.
v. Plastic used in credit cards are generally made of PHB (poly hydroxyl butulate) and will degrade in about 2 years
So what is so bad about the way we live and what we discard?
There is a lot of speculation about the toxicity and the harm of some of these products to human life. Polystyrene is often written about as releasing benzene to the food it contains when micro-waved.
Melamine is known to be negative to health esp when microwaved in staff canteens and food courts as well. If we knew more we could ask more.
The alternatives that are generally better to human health originate from 3 sources:
a. renewable resources – when we visit some of the supermarkets in Hong Kong where we can buy a smoothie or a juice in a cup, the PET (plastic) is replaced with corn / PLA (poly lactic acid). PLA is totally biodegradable and comes from a natural source. The impact on the environment would be less than using plastic.
b. Recycled materials – water bottles (PET) can be recycled and many different forms of useful items can be made. We take bottles from the environment and we therefore have a smaller environmental impact. We can make tee shorts, caps, polar fleece sweaters, airline blankets (light) as well as luggage and bags from RPET (recycled PET).
c. Repurposed agricultural waste – some of the newest polymer science is focusing on cleaning up the environment through taking agricultural waste and converting these to products we use. These products are FDA approved, of food grade and as we are taking waste from the environment that would generally be burnt, we are reducing our environmental footprint on the planet through reduction of carbon as well.
2 of such products are available in Hong Kong. The first one is a product replacing polystyrene. It is made from wheat straw and converted into a alternative for plastic, but with the exception that it is totally biodegradable. The product contains no solvents. There is NO benzene in there as a result. These products are seen in City Super as well as in one of the 3 largest Chinese fast food businesses in Hong Kong. One can say that these 2 retailers care about the health and safety of their customers as well as reduce their footprint on the environment of Hong Kong. (less toxic materials to landfill). The products are illustrated below:
The next product is made from the skin from rice. The product replaced melamine in the staff canteens and resorts of a leading hotel chain in Asia for the health and safety of their staff and customers. As this product is solvent free, melamine free, reusable (like melamine) yet no realize of melamine. The product is available in retail and is available in 2 colours (natural and black – coloured with vegetable colourant.  The product is ‘compressed skin from rice’ and totally durable.
There are many alternate products available and science evolves all the time to allow human impact to be reduced on our environment.
There are shopping and garbage bags available in degradable forms as well as renewable materials (PLA/corn). There are alternatives to detergents and chemical agents we use at home – to reduce the impact of these chemicals on our health.
There is a need in for education on what alternatives there are available in our daily life to reduce our impact on the environment and hopefully sustain some of the air, land and water quality we 

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