The Zero Waste Diaries: The Future of Innovation is Garbage

The Zero Waste Diaries: The Future of Innovation is Garbage

Hannah Chung is on a zero waste challenge. She seeks eco-alternatives and green solutions for everyday living and aims to achieve a zero waste life

Hannah  Hannah  on 7 Oct '18

Header photo credit: GroCycle

Roughly 1.3 billion tonnes, or one-third of the total global food production, is either lost or wasted every year, a staggering figure that includes the entire supply chain, from initial production to final household consumption. Hong Kong alone produces 3,600 tonnes of waste every day, with a whopping 40 per cent of household food waste reportedly coming from Chinese soups, according to a survey by HK organisation Food Grace.

Zero waste warriors and pioneering chefs claim that waste is a failure of the imagination, and we are clearly lacking plenty of it in the supply chain, with roughly 20–40 per cent of crops never reaching the shelves owing to supermarket chains’ strict demands on the agricultural industry. The problem is that we are labelling this surplus as “waste” rather than seeing it as an asset and revenue generator. The future is gearing towards circular economy models and new start-ups are now flocking to utilise and rescue this surplus within supply chains to create conscious products.

Here are some inspiring products and tips:


Condiments with a conscience (Photo credit: Rubies in the Rubble)

Appreciating inner beauty

Seeing opportunities in rejected fruit and veg, Rubies in the Rubble takes the surplus from farmers and transforms it into condiments with a conscience in the form of chutneys, jams and preserves. Rejuce and Get Wonky extract the goodness from rescued crops to make cold-pressed juices, and ChicP and Snact get creative with hummus and fruit jerky. Barnana works directly with farmers in Latin America by taking their imperfect bananas, deemed too “ugly” to export, and dehydrates them into delicious snacks.

Cups made from coffee grinds

Cups made from coffee grounds (Photo credit: Kaffeeform)


Charging our brains, and now our stoves, coffee grounds have the potential to be turned into biofuel. UK–based company bio-bean collects waste grounds from instant coffee factories, offices and cafés and converts them into “logs” that can be used for wood burners, stoves and open fires. This wonder bean is also full of nutrients and can be used as a soil base to grow mushrooms; companies like GroCycle offer kits for growing gourmet mushrooms at home. Kaffeeform stylishly moulds old coffee grounds into biodegradable coffee cups – so you can have your coffee and drink from it too.

Vegan leather bag

Vegan pineapple leather bag (Photo credit: Piñatex)


San Francisco–based start-up ReGrained rescues nutritious grains created from the beer-brewing process for protein- and fibre-packed snack bars. In reverse, Toast Ale turns leftover crusts of bread into beer. For straws, LILY FLD cleans and processes reeds, normally a by-product of rye harvests, to make all-natural drinking straws. In the textile industry, Piñatex provides additional income streams to pineapple-farming communities by turning pineapple leaves, by-products of the farming process, into plant-based leather. Vegan and plastic free = winner! Similarly, Agraloop transforms food-crop waste into high-value natural-fibre products that can be used for textiles, packaging and organic fertilisers.

Every little bit counts

Get creative and do your part at home. Transform your Chinese soup ingredients into new dishes. Revive your stale bread to make panzanella or bread pudding. If your milk is on the turn, have a go at curd cheese or paneer. Make quick pickles from old-looking veg in the fridge and turn your coffee grounds into a skin exfoliator.

Some books and blogs I recommend are River Cottage Love Your Leftovers (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), My Zero-Waste Kitchen (Kate Turner) and

Follow Hannah’s journey on Instagram @thezerowastechallenge



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