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Waste Not – An Eco-Friendly Design for Serving Hong Kong Street Food

By Stasia Fong 20 August 2014
  Hong Kong’s street food is embraced by locals and visitors alike. These iconic delicacies, from egg waffles to fish balls, while loved around the world are also frequently served in Styrofoam cups or bowls as well as in messy and unpractical plastic bags, making the consumption of these yummy treats come with a strong environmental cost. To find out how we could be more eco-friendly when enjoying are favourite street food, Localiiz spoke with Taylor Kuzma, a student from Savannah College of Art and Design Hong Kong and member of the masterminds behind a concept design for street food packaging that can really make a difference. Hong Kong is steadily making the effort to cut back on waste by moving toward eco-friendly methods, from charging an extra fee for plastic bags in grocery stores to introducing recycling containers to neighbourhoods. However, the food packaging that can be seen on the street today resembles the same containers from our childhood. Kuzma and his fellow students are working to change the way we package and even consume street food. “Current food packaging solutions are utilizing too many separate items for one person to complete one task. These solutions are mainly made of harmful plastic and Styrofoam products in high volume,” Kuzma explained. Thus, the team set forth with the mission “to create an enjoyable and memorable experience through culturally relevant street food packaging designs, made of sustainable materials in Hong Kong.” The product, conceived by students Kuzma, Camille Myhre, Ian Nott, and Ji Won Yeom on a five-week study abroad course in Design and Emerging Materials, is packaging made from bamboo pulp and soy ink with an included sauce compartment, offering an attractive solution to grimy Styrofoam cups and plastic bags. As with all great ideas, extensive research regarding materials was done prior to fabricating a working design. “Bamboo pulp offers an economic solution to pulp manufacturing/paper products because it yields up to five times as much pulp when compared to northern softwoods and requires no switching costs,” Kuzma shared. “Soy ink is derived from soybeans as opposed to petroleum based inks, which have been the standard for the printing industry. Soy ink is more environmentally friendly to produce, offers much more vivid colours, and makes it easier for printed paper to be recycled.” The team also conducted market research to create a design that was both attractive and practical for consumers by interviewing several store vendors, expats, and locals and researching the universal ergonomics of clientele around the city. They took into account factors such as the universal hand size of an average man and woman into their designs. “We started with an initial round of concepts just to get ideas brewing, and then collaborated with each other to choose which directions were the strongest. The fish boxes were specifically targeted towards fish ball vendors, because from what we noticed these were one of the highest consumed foods by locals. They were more of an influence from the anime culture that exists in Hong Kong,” Kuzma explained. Their final design however, drew its inspiration from Hong Kong’s architecture. What makes their product ideal for the Hong Kong market is the inclusion of a sauce flap according to Kuzma. “We found that each food stand had their own selection of sauces that they allowed you to put onto your meal yourself. But as you poured it on and walked away, by the time you started eating the sauce had drained to the bottom of your cup and was sitting in a pool. The cup solved this by allowing you to put sauces, mix them if you want, to easily ‘dip’ your choice of food instead.” Their design proved successful during their market testing in Sham Shui Po. “[The street vendors] faces lit up with excitement and wonder when we asked if they could use our packaging for the food instead of theirs. As people passed by on the streets, they stopped to take a look at what we had. The ones we made by hand worked excellently and brought us more attention than we could have imagined.” With little time for the project before returning to university in America, the team was unable to do extensive research regarding large scale production cost. However, from their initial research, Kuzma is confident that bamboo production would not exceed the costs of manufacturing the current plastic and Styrofoam containers. Kuzma and the team didn’t have the opportunity to pitch their concept to local companies before returning to school in Georgia. Perhaps now that we’ve spread the word of their ingenious designs, an eco-conscious company may want to step forward to make this concept a reality. Any takers?

To view the full project in detail, click here.

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.