It’s clear that we want to reduce our impact on the environment, but are we doing enough, and are we doing it properly? Ray Robertson reveals exactly how and where to recycle in DB.
Refuse! Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! This has to be our mantra for 2020. We all need to use less, re-use what we can and, most importantly perhaps, treat our waste like the waste industry sees it – as a resource. Drink cartons are being converted into paper pulp, glass into eco-bricks, plastic bottles into clothing… the type of waste that can be recycled is rapidly expanding. So, now’s the time for all of us to recommit to recycling. By expanding our existing recycling regimes, we can ensure more of our waste stays out of landfill and gets a new lease of life.
“Most DBers separate their waste for recycling, and it’s so important to do it and to do it properly,” opens Dana Winograd of DB Green and Plastic Free Seas. “Everyone needs to understand the ins and outs of what can go into the separation bins and what can’t. And they also need to know how easy it would be for them to recycle more items.”
Where to recycle
It goes without saying that there are separation bins for paper, metal, plastic and glass at each village (as well as some bus stops and both plazas). But there are many more recycling options in DB.
You can take large electrical appliances to the waste transfer station near the Mui Wo ferry pier. Alternatively, you can contact either Winson Cleaning Services or Alba Integrated Waste Solutions to arrange for collection. Alba processes TVs, computers (including monitors, printers and scanners), refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines to create secondary raw materials.
You can drop off CDs and DVDs for recycling at the waste transfer station near the Mui Wo ferry pier.
Other household items that can be saved from landfill include small electrical items (WEEE), rechargeable batteries, energy-saving lightbulbs and fluorescent tubes, all of which you can hand in at your village management office.
Importantly too, DB Green is now collecting polyfoam and liquid cartons for recycling. “In order to be recycled, all cartons need to be cut open and washed with the plastic spout and lid removed, and they should be dried, flattened and sorted by type (white-back and silver-back),” says Dana. “Polyfoam items, including food containers, fruit nets and product packaging, also need to be clean, with no food residue.”
Collections are held by DB Green representatives each month at the waterfront side of Hemingway’s. The next collection drive is on January 19, from 9am to 11am. The polyfoam is recycled through the government-funded Missing Link – Polyfoam Recycling Scheme. The drink cartons are picked up in DB by Mil Mill, a Yuen Long-based pulp mill and education centre supported by Recycling Fund. Mil Mill is able to process 10 tonnes of beverage cartons daily, and convert them into paper pulp.
“The schools are getting on board now too, which is great,” Dana adds. “Discovery Bay InternationalSchool, Discovery College, Bayview House of Children and S.K.H. Wei Lun Primary School are all encouraging their families to save their clean liquid cartons and bring them into school once a month for recycling.” (If you want to get your school involved, you can email Dana at [email protected]).
Another endeavour that’s helping to reduce waste at source is the food collection scheme running in some DB villages. Residents participating in the scheme are encouraged to place loose/unbagged food in the food bin at their village. The waste is collected by Winson, composted and used as fertiliser in local landscaping.
What to recycle
It’s time now to take a fresh look at the way we recycle on a daily basis, to ensure that we are separating our waste effectively. “It’s important to know what can and cannot be put into the recycling bins and to put things in the correct bin,” says Dana. “It’s important that they are clean, too. Also, don’t bag your recyclables before putting them in the bins – put them in loose.”
When it comes to paper, it should be free of paint and oil, and not plastic coated – so no take-out coffee cups. Plastic windows should be removed from envelopes, and be aware that laminated paper, such as some brochure and magazine covers, is non-recyclable. Cardboard boxes should be flattened and left next to a paper separation bin.
Most glassware can be recycled, and you can leave the labels on your bottles. Some of the glass collected is processed at the [email protected] eco-centre near Parkridge Village and reused as a construction material. The rest is picked up by Baguio Waste Management & Recycling, an external company, that handles a large proportion of Hong Kong’s waste. Note that mirrors, regular light bulbs, crystal glassware, glass cookware and tempered windows cannot be recycled.
Film plastics, like bags and soft-food packaging, are more challenging materials to handle compared to hard plastics, such as bottles. While there is a higher chance that these materials don’t end up getting recycled – for a variety of reasons, including contamination, high cost of sorting and lower resale value – it is possible, so put them in the plastic separation bin.
Items that cannot be recycled and therefore should not be placed in separation bins include crisp packets, candy wrappers, toothpaste tubes, disposable coffee cup lids, lids from glass jars, and anything contaminated by food. And when it comes to plastic, be sure to check the number in the chasing arrows triangle. A 1, 2, 4 or 5 applies for recycling in DB (though not necessarily elsewhere). If it’s a 3 or 7, unfortunately it’s destined for landfill, as are most 6s.
It’s no secret that Hong Kong’s landfill sites are full to bursting with rubbish, and one of the ways the government hopes to tackle the issue is by promoting recycling through the Municipal Solid Waste Scheme. “Under the scheme, which has yet to be passed through legislation, all non-recyclable waste would be placed in designated garbage bags, and households would be charged based on how much they send to landfill,” Dana explains.
It’s not clear yet how the charges would be implemented in DB, however Dana hopes that residents would be charged by volume in order to incentivise them to practise waste management at source, the idea being that the less you pollute, the less you pay.
• Alba Integrated Waste Solutions, www.weee.com.hk
• Baguio Waste Management & Recycling, www.baguio.com.hk
• DB Green Facebook page
• Plastic Free Seas, plasticfreeseas.org
• Winson Cleaning Services, 3176 3188