Event RecapBack
Behind the three-color recycle bins – Recycle Factory Tour

“Blue for Waste Paper, Yellow for Aluminium Cans, and Brown for Plastics” -- most people in Hong Kong are familiar with this slogan from the Government years ago. There are indeed numerous recycle bins on the street. However, the overall waste recovery rate in Hong Kong only accounted for 35% in 2015. Compared to Taipei (over 50% recovery rate) and Seoul (over 60%), Hong Kong is obviously lagging behind. How is the recycling industry in Hong Kong faring? Are there any way outs? On 26th August, we organized a tour to the recycle park in Sheung Shui operated by Lau Choi Kee. Mr Jacky Lau, chairman of the Hong Kong Recycled Materials & Re-production Business General Association, was invited to give a review on Hong Kong’s recycling industry for the participants to find out what are the difficulties facing the industry.

The recycling park of Lau Choi Kee in Sheung Shui is capable of processing various recycled materials including metal, paper, plastic and electrical appliances. The tour began with the learning of how processing machines work for plastic recycling in the park. The crushing machine smashes the plastic, including plastic baskets, into nail size. The dissolving machine churns the plastic into strips and cut them into granules, so that the plastic can be recovered as raw material. The packing machine compresses the plastic bottles directly for ease of transport. Different machines are used for processing different kinds of plastic. Mr Jacky Lau told us that basically almost all kinds of plastic can be recycled. Due to difference in density, different kinds of plastic can be sorted by floating them in water.

Nevertheless, plastic recycling is the biggest difficulty faced by Hong Kong. The recycling factory of Lau Choi Kee in Sheung Shui is capable of handling plastic recycling of up to 60 tonnes a day, but only10 tonnes of plastic are collected. The small volume for recycling has raised significantly the factory’s cost in transportation, labour, water and electricity, especially for plastic collected from the Hong Kong Island side. As most of the recycling factories are located in the New Territories, long transportation distance has made Hong Kong Island the hardest hit area of plastic waste. Despite the fact that processing machines are available in Lau Choi Kee, direct shipping of compressed plastic bottles to Thailand is considered the more cost-effective way of doing the recycling business. Apart from that, the environmental policy of neighbouring areas also affects the development of Hong Kong’s recycling industry. Currently, crushed plastic can still enter into mainland China. Starting from October 2017, as China tightens its policy, only processed plastic granules are allowed in the Mainland as raw material for further processing. Mr Jacky Lau pointed out that the recycling industry of Hong Kong relies solely on voluntary investment, without any policy support from the government. When compared to the good market value paper and metal recycling can fetch, plastic recycling has very little attraction. The recycling industry is an important part of environmental protection and Mr Lau urged the Hong Kong Government to provide greater support to the industry, both in terms of policy and subsidy.

To help alleviate the plight of plastic recycling, the tour participants were keen to suggest ways of increasing public incentive during the discussion session. Some participants suggested to follow overseas examples by installing automated recycling machines outside the big supermarkets. People helping to recycle plastic bottles are rewarded with shopping vouchers. Renewing the good old practice of a deposit system for the return of clean glass bottles at convenience stores is another possible way. The education authorities are also urged to integrate resource recycling policies and methods into the current school syllabus. The sustainability of Hong Kong hinges on the success of its resource recycling. It is hoped that more people can contribute creative ideas to raise the resource recovery rate in Hong Kong and relieve the pressure on our landfills.