As we are entering the post-pandemic era, it is time to examine the future development of the recycling industry in Hong Kong. Jacky Yip, administrative manager of Hong Kong Glass Resources who has been involved in the Christmas installation project at TKO Plaza shared his views with us
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What is the turning point of the recycling development in Hong Kong in the past decade?
The environmental awareness in Hong Kong was indeed weak in our society back then. Thanks to the hotels, malls, and housing estates which took part in the pilot schemes and actively collaborated with environmental organisations to launch recycling campaigns. In 2017, the government introduced some vital environmental policies and one of which was working with the glass recycling companies on a contractual basis. Today, there are two glass management contractors in Hong Kong. Our works include education, establishing an extensive network of collection points, following up on complaints and inquiries, processing the collected glasses, and transporting them to the government’s storehouse or private factories that produce eco-building material such as glass brick – forming a systemic industry chain for glass recycling business.
What are the challenges and opportunities facing the glass bottle recycling business in Hong Kong?
There are countless challenges facing us. On a personal level, the ideal way of recycling glass bottles is to remove the cap and label, rinse and throw away the residues from the bottle before putting it into the recycling bin. This sounds a lot to Hong Kongers to handle out of their busy schedules, which is understandable. On a societal level, there are spaces for improvement in building backup facilities. As a glass management contractor, we have been actively reaching out to different stakeholders in the communities to build collection points and expand the network. One of the end goals is to educate the public that glass containers are 100% recyclable and reusable. Rather than expanding our landfill or building another refuse incinerator, we should do more to educate the public in waste reduction and improve recycling awareness.
Technologically, what is the biggest breakthrough in glass bottle recycling and regeneration?
There is not much, unfortunately. However, we have been investing in upcycling research. Now, what concerns us most is how to enhance local resources for local consumption in the post-pandemic time. Finding an appropriate location to build a factory in Hong Kong is challenging, thus, there is a limitation in terms of manufacturing scale. In addition, there is a gap to fill in skill and expertise. This explains the reason we have to rely on the cities nearby which have better facilities for advanced upcycling techniques. The global supply chain is breaking under the impact of COVID-19, it is time for the Hong Kong government and the recycling industry to consider a new way out.
How could our society progress in educating and encouraging the public to take part in glass bottle recycling?
The awareness among many private and public organisations has been raised, one of them is restaurants, a sector that produces most glass wastes among other trades. The collaboration with the three architects for the TKO Plaza’s Christmas installation is a great demonstration of lining up different stakeholders for raising environmental awareness. We used the glass collected from schools and the TKO community to create the installation. Furthermore, we organised guided tours for schools and showed students the processes of glass recycling; whilst educating them on the importance of reusing resources. We hope more stakeholders will join us in promoting glass recycling and better use the recycled material.
Finally, which Asian city has the best glass recycling system? What could we learn from it?
I would say Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Among them, the community-based education done in Taiwan is a good reference to draw from. In Taiwan, each community will create its own recycling schedule. For example, they will only collect plastic bottles on Monday and glass bottles on Tuesday, and so on and so forth. People will eventually form a good recycling habit. At the end of the day, recycling requires a change of behaviour, and turns recycling into a daily habit.