Recycling IN DB
(Kate Wade for DB Green) Below is the extended version of the article appearing in Inside DB……
A few years ago recycling in DB was something of a mystery. Comments we received ranged from uncertainty that it really happened to fervent belief that it went straight to landfill. Most of us who do recycle were unclear about what items could and couldn’t be recycled and just about all of us were unsure how it really works in DB. In recent times recycling in DB has become more visible with recycle bins popping up at most bus stops and more public places. Light bulbs and rechargeable batteries can now be collected at each management office in every village and many of our highrises have recycle bins on each floor. But it seems many residents are still unsure if recycling really happens in DB.
It has been our mission over the last couple of years to uncover the truth about recycling in DB. Does it really happen, where does it go, who buys it, do they pay for it, how much do they pay and who receives the money, what really gets recycled and what is the process in DB? We’ve interviewed our cleaning contractors over and over again, we’ve watched, photographed and followed the process many times, and then we’ve interviewed some more. We’ve sat down with the recycling company and asked specific questions- do you want this, do you care about that, and visited their site in Kwai Chung.
Some things have needed improvement: more bins, better labeling, education of our cleaners, a wider collection of types of materials. Happily there has been progression in all these areas, but most importantly there has been the realization that not only does recycling absolutely happen in DB but that it is a thriving and very active market.
So how does it work in DB? Like all estates in Hong Kong, DB hires a cleaning contractor who according to tender specifications must also collect our recycling. The City Owners Committee (COC) and City Management provide the bins in our public areas. Your VOC (Village Owners Committee) decides on the type and range of bins in and around your buildings. This means there is a wide variation of recycling facilities ranging from proactive villages who have bins on each floor to villages whose committees only wish to have a couple of wheelie bins out the back. Whatever facilities your village decides to provide the cleaning contractor will pick it up. And that is where it starts. We the residents separate our rubbish into recyclable and non recyclable materials and the cleaners collect it. Furthermore, as is customary in Hong Kong, they get paid for this effort- both the cleaning contractor and the individual cleaners. Hence there is excellent motivation to collect it.
(Unhappy with the recycling facilities in your village? Some villages have not yet got round to providing better recycling facilities for their residents. This may be because the area for putting recycle bins on each floor is limited although a solution can usually be found. Some worry about the cost. However, depending on the type of bin, this one off cost is quite small, or even cardboard boxes can be used. There may be a lack of manpower (or interest) in organizing it. And yet other villages believe having recycling facilities somewhere in the village is good enough. However, the government believes convenience is key when trying to get more Hong Kong residents recycling and will cover 50% of the cost of the bins if recycling facilities are put on each floor. In this way they hope to capture the recycling from residents who might not do it if they have to take their recycling to the ground floor and find the bins somewhere outside the building. If you would like to see an improvement in your village recycling bins you can write to your VOC at email@example.com letting them know you’d like more bins. You could even volunteer your time to help and better still, if you are an owner, you can become a member of your village committee at the next village elections and help represent the green needs of the residents in your village.
At village level: You may have noticed that your building has a particular cleaner assigned to your building or set of lowrises. They are responsible for dealing with your rubbish and recycling among other duties. The waste removal is the same procedure for all villages. Rubbish is picked up by truck every morning in black plastic bags. Recycling is gathered in grey plastic bags (though black may be used if they have run out of grey) and held in a storage area within the village. This is picked up on certain afternoons: paper (the bulk of DB’s recycling) is collected on Mondays and Thursdays, plastics on Sundays and metals on Fridays. It is then taken to a holding facility (Area 10B) opposite the Nim Shue Wan ferry pier until an outside recycling company comes into DB to purchase it. With rubbish transported in the morning and recycling in the afternoon the two are kept separated and recycling and rubbish waste are never mixed in the same truck. The only exception is that you will often see cardboard cartons going out with the rubbish in the morning. This cardboard is separated from the rubbish at Area 10B where it is compacted and bundled into cubes by a dedicated machine. Occasionally an extra rubbish trip may be required to a particular village if it is producing more rubbish than usual due to renovations etc and this should be the only time you see a rubbish truck in the afternoon.
(All DB cleaners must attend an educational recycling seminar twice a year and are aware of what is and isn’t recyclable. They are also trained not to remove any recycling the residents have separated and place it in the rubbish. However if you believe your recycling is being mixed with the rubbish you need to call the cleaning contractor (currently Winson) immediately and they should come to your assistance. Photographs would also be helpful if they are unable to attend straight away. As each building generally has one dedicated cleaner it may be a matter of educating that particular employee or a warning and disciplinary action given. Ph numbers to call:
Winson Office: 31763188
Kan (Foreman- English) 96683718
Leung (Supervisor- Cantonese) 96683704)
The buyers and sellers: In DB our recycling is purchased by an outside private recycling business. They are one of about 300 private businesses in Hong Kong who act as the middleman between the estates and the larger recycling companies. As there are very few recycling plants actually in Hong Kong most recycling is transported by ship into China. Our recycle company tells us DB’s recycling is sold on to a business in Guang Dong.
The recycler picks up paper from Area 10B depot on Thursdays, which gets valued back at their depot and is paid to our cleaning contractor’s account. While the cleaning contractor is not at liberty to tell us the amount they are paid, typical values in Hong Kong for paper and cardboard at this initial purchase phase are around 50c/kg.
Metals, plastics, clothing and electronic goods are collected on Fridays with both days’ collections around 4:30pm and free to view. If you are skeptical that recycling occurs, Friday is the operation to watch. Cleaners, and other recycling collectors from around the area, line up with their trolleys and their week’s collection- which explains while you will often see them wheeling their trolleys down the main road on Friday afternoon. On this day you may also see metal objects along the side of the road. If they are too bulky for the cleaners to take down themselves, then the recycling truck driver is told by mobile phone and he and his men will stop along the road on Friday on their way to the depot to pick up these objects.
The recycler weighs each person’s pickings, sorting out the different types of metals and throwing it into various cages. Clothes go into another cage and electronic goods into another. The value is added up and the individual cleaner is paid in cash. Metals picked up from common areas (parks, plaza etc) are also weighed and the money earned pays for the cleaners’ dinner on a Friday night.
Anyone witnessing these transactions will be without doubt amazed at the amount that gets recycled. Metals of every form are on display from broken lamps to food cans, curtain rails, table legs, drink cans etc- if it has metal in it, it has definite value. Likewise appliances and clothes fetch a good price. Like all resources, worth varies with market value. Currently the price of metal is good and equates to about 10c per aluminium can but in the midst of last years economic downturn it was closer to 4 cans for 10c.
At the moment in DB no one is paid for plastic though it is still collected and recycled and no doubt the recycler gets paid for it as he sells it on. According to the EPD, of all plastics, clear plastic fetches the highest price with around $2/kg.
Glass is not and never has been recycled in DB despite the various collection facilities that have been around at various times. It has always gone to landfill as its market value and transport costs mean it is not as economically viable as other types of recycling. However the exciting news is that glass recycling is starting in DB on July 1st with an introductory collection day in the plaza on the 16th May. A small business in Tsuen Mun who will use our glass to make good quality bricks and pavers will be in the plaza on this day to explain how their plant works and you can bring down any glass you can save up between now and then. We will be the first residential village to join the program along with businesses like Coca Cola and some hotels. We won’t get paid for it- in fact we will have to deliver it ourselves and pay a small fee for it- however it is an excellent environmental initiative on behalf of DB which is lowering our contribution to Hong Kong’s escalating landfill problem.
Hong Kong issues: With a huge appetite for consumption Hong Kong generates an enormous amount of waste. The figures for 2008 released by the EPD show that Hong Kong produced 6.6 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW), which includes domestic, commercial and industrial waste. 48% of this was recovered for recycling earning Hong Kong 7.4 billion dollars which is no small income. However 3.46 million tonnes of MSW was not recycled (along with another 1.48million tonnes of construction and other waste) and went to our 3 landfills that, at the current rate, will fill one by one, between early to mid 2010’s. 2.22 million tonnes is domestic waste going to landfill each year which is 317kg/year of waste per man, woman and child in Hong Kong. Just imagine if you had to store all that waste in your house for every member of your household! It is estimated we can recycle 75% of our household waste. The government aim is to see only 25% of MSW go to landfill by 2014. Of course better yet would be reducing our waste altogether by choosing less packaging, refusing junk mail and buying only what we need.
Valuable resource: Many people are unaware that paper, metals and plastics are not rubbish but a valuable resource. The products we buy made with these items don’t magically appear from thin air but must be extracted from somewhere, either from the environment in their raw state via logging, mining and oil drilling (for plastics) or in a more useable form from our recycling. Using recycled materials uses less water, fewer chemicals and less energy then it does to extract the material from its raw state. In some cases significantly less, as in the case of metal which uses 95% less energy from recycling it as opposed to mining it and starting from scratch. So while there is good economic incentive for producers to use recycled materials it also means we can slow down the destruction of our diminishing natural habitats by using the resources provided in recycling. As each year we use more natural resources than we are replacing, the materials we use for production are depleting and it is likely that recyclable materials will become more valuable. They may never be as valuable as gold and silver but neither should this supply of useable material be treated as trash and disposed of in your rubbish. It is worth money to many people along the recycling chain and is the earths ‘capital’ wasted.
So what exactly is recyclable in DB’s recycle bins? None of us want to be taking time (albeit small) to separate and prepare items for recycling if later it is thrown into the rubbish, so finding out exactly what is and isn’t recycled was an essential part of the mission goals. Not only do we now have a definitive list of what goes in the 3 way recycle bins at your estate or in the public areas but read on to find out how to recycle other items. Furthermore the recycler tells us if in doubt of a particular item go ahead and recycle it. It will be sorted out later and if recyclable it will be. They are interested in volume so the more they can get the better.
✓Newspapers, magazines, junk mail and brochures, receipts, post it notes
✓Cardboard and cardboard delivery boxes
✓Empty pizza boxes
✓Non-foil wrapping paper
✓Paper with staples & rubberbands (will be removed during the recycling process)
✓Dry food packaging e.g. cereal boxes
✓Writing paper and envelopes (even those with plastic windows)
✓Paper cups/plates/lunch boxes (dry and cleanish)
✓Laminated paper- (plastic and paper is separated in recycling process)
✓Plastic soft drink and water bottles
✓Plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles
✓Plastic household cleaning fluid bottles e.g. washing up liquid, etc
✓Any plastic container from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
✓Yoghurt pots, margarine tubs and ice cream containers
✓CD’s, Video and audio tapes
✓Plastic food wrap/saran wrap/bubble wrap
✓Plastic medicine containers (rinse first)
✓Plastic takeaway food and drink containers (preferably clean)
✓Drinks cans – aluminium, steel
✓Food tins (rinsed)
✓Aluminium foil, trays, metal jar lids- (clean)
✓Saucepans, pots, pans
✓All metal ie scooters, bikes, curtain rails, metal parts of broken items etc
✓Computers/ Oil heaters/ Other electrical appliances
✗ Windows, glass or mirrors, glass bottles and jars (from July can be recycled at
collection points in DB)
✗ Empty aerosols
✗ Milk and juice cartons, tetra packing
✗ Household rubbish
✗ Food waste
✗ Paint or chemical tins
✗ Garden waste
✗ Ceramics, crockery, porcelain and oven ware
✗ Disposable nappies
✗ Napkins, tissues, paper towels
✗ Polystyrene/ EPS/ packaging around equipment (hope to change in future)
✗ Takeaway foam containers, cups, trays
✗ Plastic bags with foil lining (potato chip packets, food pouches)
✗ Foil wrapping paper
✗ Wax coated paper
✗ Paper contaminated with paint, chemicals or food
✗ Wood furniture (try to sell)
OTHER RECYCLING OPTIONS
Give to your helper, local church, put into one of the 9 Salvation Army drop boxes around DB (one behind post office) or put beside your estate recycling bins in a clear bag or open box for collection by your cleaning lady.
All rechargeable batteries can be collected in a blue box found in every village management office and on the counter at McDonald’s. Rechargeable batteries include those from mobile and cordless phones, MP3/MD/CD/VCD/DVD portable players, digital and video cameras, shavers, notebook computers, laptops, electrical toothbrushes, Personal Digital Assistances, portable vacuum cleaners, power tools and electronic game sets. 2A/3A/9V rechargeable batteries also fall within the recyclable category. Disposable batteries are unfortunately thrown into landfill in Hong Kong polluting the ground so avoid their use as much as possible and buy rechargeable.
Food and garden scraps
If you have a garden or balcony you can start a compost heap or worm farm, then put it to use on plants or in your garden. While widespread composting is on the agenda for DB Green it will take a few years to establish.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE):
For unwanted computers, monitors, printers, stereo, electronics, mobile phones, and household appliances that are still functioning there are a number of places to re-sell them on forums and notice boards in DB. The Salvation Army will also take appliances and office equipment in good condition and can pick up on the plaza flea market day or if small enough you can place inside the Salvation Army bins. For small appliances that are no longer useable, place them next to your rubbish bin. Their monetary value will ensure the cleaner recycles it.
Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFL)
Light bulbs are recently recyclable in Hong Kong. Each village management office collection boxes for the tubes and the bulbs. Keep boxes for light bulbs to store them in after use. Due to the very toxic mercury content it is important that CFL’s are correctly recycled, and be careful when handling or transporting them.
Toys, Books, Clothes, Household Items
DB has an excellent and active second hand market via DB flea market held in the plaza every 3 months. Also DBay online, notice boards in Fusion and the Residents Club, DB forum, Inside DB classified ads and a second hand bookstore upstairs or they can be deposited in the Salvation Army Bins.
Officially starting July 1st at various locations around DB with an initial collection taking place on May 16 in the plaza for residents to participate in and learn about the company taking our glass.
Upstairs at P-Solution HP ink cartridges will be recycled for $5 each.
( GETTING STARTED
Recycling is easier than you might think. The simplest way to get started is to keep a cardboard box from home delivery next to your rubbish bin in your kitchen and also a box or bin in your home office. Put all your clean and dry recycling in it and separate when you get to the recycle bins or chutes in your rubbish room or 3 way bin outside your building.)
The 3 R’s- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
While this article is all about recycling in DB it should be noted that as important as recycling is to the health of the planet the very best thing we can do is REDUCE our consumption. The order we say reduce, reuse, recycle is actually in order of importance. If you can’t reduce then reuse, and if you can’t reuse your last resort is to recycle. Here are a few ideas to get you started on reducing:
• Change your bills to e-bills wherever possible. The Residents Club has an e-bill now as does CLP, most internet and phone companies
• Buy good quality, re-usable, long-lasting, repairable products instead of disposable items
• Say no to plastic bags, take re-usable bags to the shop instead
• Rethink all your purchases of ‘stuff’– do you really need it?
• Choose products with little or no packaging
• Get off mailing lists and refuse junk mail.
• Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
• Buy products with re-usable or recyclable packaging
• Avoid polystyrene/foam containers
Discovery Bay is getting better at recycling but there’s plenty of room for improvement. With education and a little more care we can make a big difference to the amount of waste our community sends to landfill. Lets show Hong Kong how it’s done!