There can be few places more enticing for sustainability-focused professionals keen to eradicate plastic waste than Indonesia, the second-biggest creator of ocean waste in the world and a country that recently had to call in the army to unblock rivers clogged by plastic bottles and bags.
This is exactly what sustainability champion Paola Cortese has done, becoming Indonesia Country Manager at Plastic Bank, the company turning plastic waste into economic gain in developing communities. Cortese has been instrumental in overseeing the opening of eight new plastic recycling centres in the country, a partnership between Plastic Bank and cleaning product producer SC Johnson, which aim to tackle ocean waste at source.
On an individual level, Cortese has over ten years of experience in creating and running design and sustainability businesses. She founded Cortese Design Studio, the ‘eco-forward’ interior design studio which worked for Samsung, Loreal and Harley Davidson; and in 2016 set up Zero Waste Life HK, a sustainable behaviour consultancy agency that offered zero waste workshops and events. Environmentalism has always been a personal commitment: whilst living in Hong Kong, she reduced her annual solid household waste to 540 grams.
She is a certified ‘Climate Reality Leader’ through Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and regularly speaks about achieving a ‘circular lifestyle’ – a deep connection to nature – in the urban environment.