End Markets | 3 MINUTE READ

Hong Kong’s Recycling Needs

Prior to the Taipei Plas factory tour that kicks off on March 22 in Taiwan, I took a trip to Hong Kong. Of course, I can’t take off my plastics packaging/recycling editor hat despite being on vacation.


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Prior to the Taipei Plas factory tour that kicks off on March 22 in Taiwan, I took a trip to Hong Kong. Of course, I can’t take off my plastics packaging/recycling editor hat despite being on vacation.


So I observed how even though Hong Kong has a population of about 7 million, it’s relatively clean to other cities I’ve been to. This is in spite of the fact that like many major cities, Hong Kong is a very “consumption-based” society—everything is on the go. But looks are deceiving because while Hong Kong does remove trash from the streets, the city is not recycling the waste.


In 2014, an estimated 1.4 million bottles and 1,000 tons of plastic bags were thrown out each day, according to an article on Phys.org, and only about five percent of plastics was sent for recycling in 2014, according to government figures. This means that the landfill is the major method of waste disposal. And at the same time, it is estimated that the landfill sites in Hong Kong will reach capacity in 2018.


Government officials have stated a goal to increase its recycling rate up to 55% by 2022. However, that goal will be hard to achieve if there aren’t suitable business prospects for the recycling industry.


Phys.org states:


There is also little incentive for plastics recycling contractors in the city—their profits are dented by costs of transport and sorting, and with low global oil prices new plastic is cheaper for manufacturers to buy than reworked material. Due to limited facilities, most items are processed in mainland China.


It seems that Hong Kong should adopt a reduce, reuse, recycling philosophy, but the questions remain: who’s going to start that trend? How do you completely change the public’s consumption pattern?


To be honest, I don’t find much when searching for recycling in Hong Kong. But I did come across one company that is working to change the recycling mindset, which is Watsons Water, a manufacturer of pure distilled water with production plants located in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In order to better understand Hong Kong citizens’ recycling habits and gain knowledge of plastic bottle recycling, Watsons Water conducted a survey last year in major areas of Hong Kong including Central, Causeway Bay, Mongkok, and Tsuen Wan. A total of 1,517 people aged between 18 and 54 were surveyed.


Results show that over half (53%) of the respondents placed plastic bottles in their respective recycling bin over past six months, but 99% of them do not know the proper way to recycle plastic bottles. About 42% of the respondents do not know how to separate three types of plastic on the bottle (cap, sleeve and bottle) while 9% of respondents do not feel the need to do so.


The survey also reflects that Hong Kong citizens are conscious of protecting the environment, but lack an in-depth understanding when it comes to plastic bottle recycling. About 68% of the respondents do not remove the cap and sleeve before placing the plastic bottle in the recycling bin, but after being informed of the correct method, 77% of those surveyed willing to follow the correct steps.


With sustainability in mind, the company launched a series of plastic bottles made with 100% rPET in 2015—the first bottler in Asia to feature 100% rPET. In addition, Watsons Water is encouraging all Hong Kong citizens to take up the correct recycling habit by following the “Plastic Bottle 3-Step Recycling Method,” which is to remove the cap, tear apart the sleeve, and place cap, sleeve and bottle body into the plastic recycling bin separately. Watsons Water specially designed a sleeve with double dotted lines for its Go Green bottles to facilitate its easy removal.


Clearly, Hong Kong’s recycling industry has plenty of room to grow.