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Mak first started bartering last year. She has made 10 trades so far and finds barter a more interesting and environmentally friendly way to shop. For instance, she exchanged two packs of pencils for a book and coupons for drinks through TradeDuck.

Although Mak is busy preparing to take her Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination this year, she still spends time on TradeDuck. What attracts her is the wide variety of items on offer.

She normally takes unwanted, excess items to barter, mostly items in daily use and stationary. Her trade partners are usually middle-aged housewives.
When Mak weighs up potential trades, she considers the usefulness of the items offered rather than the original retail price. When she exchanges for something that she later finds is useless to her, she puts it back on the website and the barter cycle continues.

One-to-one bartering is easier as there is no need for a venue or any organisational preparation. But while Ren Wan and Rika Kojima often have difficulty finding a place to hold the event, they believe the swap gathering itself is vital. “Rent is the most expensive [expenditure],” says Wan. “The most important thing is the whole thing can be sustained…It will lose its meaning if it ceases.”

Wan hopes JupYeah will help people reflect on their living patterns and consumption habits. She and her team insist on not throwing away any of the leftovers from their Pop-up Swap events because, as Wan says, in the end almost everything can be used by someone.

The people behind both JupYeah and the Really Really Free Market store the leftovers in their homes for the next event. For the goods they know will not be taken by anyone, they recycle them or take them to second-hand shops.

JupYeah’s Wan says the group will work with a local charity group called Sowergift for their next event and Sowergift will take away all the leftovers.

Barter may be new to many people but it is an ancient trade practice that can help conserve our environment and improve sustainability in the modern age. While organised barter is making a comeback in Hong Kong, proponents stress it is not necessary to join the events. “We can do it [barter] with our friends,” To says.

So what are you waiting for? Dig out your unwanted belongings and join this meaningful activity. You may find treasure.

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