With Earth Day approaching on April 22, Claire Severn takes a look at recycling in DB and asks what more we can do to reduce our carbon footprint.
As communities go, it’s fair to say that the people of DB are pretty switched on when it comes to environmental matters. Head to a local coffee shop and you’ll see residents handing over their own flasks for take-outs. Eat at a DB restaurant and you’ll find diners sipping from paper or metal straws rather than plastic. And if you end up in Fusion without a reusable bag, there’s a handy rack near the tills where eco-conscious shoppers leave spares to help anyone who finds themselves stuck without one.
It’s clear that we want to reduce the impact our modern lifestyles have on the environment, but are we doing enough, and are we doing things properly? Take recycling, for example. Most DBers separate their waste. It’s easy enough to do, but do you know the ins and outs of what can actually be recycled and what can’t?
Dana Winograd of DB Green and PFS after a polyfoam collection in January
“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 Winograd of DB Green and Plastic Free Seas (PFS). “It’s important that they are clean, too. Also, don’t bag your recyclables before putting them in the bins – put them in loose.”
So, what can be recycled? At each village (as well as some bus stops and both plazas) you’ll find separation bins for paper, metal, plastic and glass. 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.
CDs and DVDs can also be recycled, but they need to be taken to the waste sorting centre near Nim Shue Wan.
Most glassware can be recycled, and you can leave the labels on your bottles. Some glass items are processed here in DB using the glass crusher at the [email protected] eco centre and reused as a construction material.
Other items, for example screw-top wine bottles with remnants of metal on them, are processed by Baguio Waste Management & Recycling, an external company, that handles a large proportion of Hong Kong’s waste.
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, mirrors 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 all 6s, apart from polyfoam, which is now being recycled through the governmentfunded Missing Link – Polyfoam Recycling Scheme.
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, and therefore they are collected in DB.
Cartons, such as Tetra Paks, for milk, food and juice, don’t get recycled right now, however DB Green and PFS are planning a new scheme to address this, starting in May. In order to be recycled, all cartons will need to be cut open and washed with the plastic spout and lid removed, and they should be dried and flattened. More information on this will be posted soon on the DB Green website.
Nikki Boot of DB Mothers & Friends at the Environmental Toy House outside La Costa
Another initiative launched recently by DB Green and PFS is the collection of polyfoam. An alltoo-common sight in Hong Kong’s supermarkets and takeaway joints, polyfoam items include fruit nets, product packaging and food containers.
Two collections, destined for the Missing Link – Polyfoam Recycling Scheme, have taken place to date, at the DB flea markets in January and March, and the goal is to set up a monthly collection in the near future. So, don’t throw your polyfoam in either the rubbish or recycling bin – wash it and hand it over at the next collection drive.
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 can be handed in at your village management office.
When it comes to large electrical appliances, residents can take them to the waste sorting centre near Nim Shue Wan, or alternatively 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.
The polluter pays
On the government’s agenda this year is the promotion of recycling through the Municipal Solid Waste scheme, which will see households charged based on how much they send to landfill. Under the scheme, which is due to take effect in the second half of 2019, all non-recyclable waste will need to be placed in designated garbage bags.
It’s not clear yet how the charges will be implemented in DB, however Dana hopes that residents will be charged by volume in order to incentivise people to practise waste management at source, the idea being that the less you pollute, the less you pay.
One endeavour that’s already helping to reduce waste at source is the food collection scheme running in some DB villages. Twilight Court resident Anders Larsen is an enthusiastic participant in the scheme. “It’s a simple daily exercise to dump the food waste after dinner,” says Anders. “People do do it, but more residents should get involved– to do so, you need to apply to City Management.”
Residents participating in the scheme are encouraged to place unbagged food in the food bin at their village. There are certain items which you shouldn’t include such as large bones, corn cobs and husks, large fruit pits and liquid. The waste is collected by Winson, composted and used as fertiliser in local landscaping.
But back to non-perishable items. What happens to our recycled waste after it has left the processing plant? With China and other Asian countries placing more and more restrictions on what they will import, it’s becoming an ever-increasing issue. “It is a problem here in Hong Kong just like in every other country in the world,” says Dana. “But it’s also an opportunity, as it forces countries to better manage their own waste.” Dana points to the joint venture between Alba, Swire Beverages and Baguio, which will see a new plastic recycling facility open in the second half of 2020, able to handle every polyethylene terephthalate (PET) drinks bottle used in Hong Kong, as well as other bottles such as those used for body-care products. Watsons Water is getting in on the act too, with the introduction of hundreds of reverse vending machines throughout Hong Kong, as well as plans to offer water refills for just HK$1 per 100 millilitres in a six-month trial. To encourage members of the public to use the reverse vending machines, points will be given for each bottle returned, via the Drops of Fun mobile app, which can be redeemed for cash coupons or gifts. Add to that the government’s plans, as part of its Producer Responsibility Scheme, to introduce a deposit on all plastic drink bottles, which would be refunded to consumers when the bottle is returned for recycling, and perhaps we will start to see a shift in behaviour among Hongkongers. Here’s hoping so.
The 4 Rs
Refuse! Say no to single-use plastic. Carry reusable shopping bags with you, request drinks without straws and bring your own take-out containers.
Reduce! Choose items that aren’t heavily packaged in plastic and that are locally sourced to reduce your carbon footprint.
Reuse! Don’t automatically throw things away when you’re done with them – someone else may be able to put them to good use. Here in DB, there are plenty of options. Toys, clothes and small household items can be placed in the Environmental Toy Houses located at Brilliance Court, La Costa and Midvale Village. The items donated are collected by local social enterprise DB Mothers & Friends, which redistributes them to people in need. DB Mothers & Friends also arranges door-to-door collections of larger household items each week for a small fee. Another option for clothes is to donate them to the Salvation Army via the collection bins located behind DB Post Office and at Midvale Village. Alternatively, there are lots of different Facebook groups for buying, selling and swapping items among the community, as well as ‘swapping corners’ in many villages. Your old books or pram may be just what someone else is looking for.
Recycle! Be mindful that recycling should be your last option before landfill. If you can’t reuse it, simply sort it into the correct recycling bin.
• Alba Integrated Waste Solutions, www.weee.com.hk
• Baguio Waste Management & Recycling, www.baguio.com.hk
• DB Green, dbgreen.org
• DB Mothers & Friends, 2ndhanditem.wordpress.com
• Plastic Free Seas, plasticfreeseas.org
• Swire Beverages, swire.com
• Watsons Water, aswatson.com
• Winson Cleaning Services, 3176 3188
Tags: carbon footprint, claire severn, discovery bay, earth day, environment, plastic, recycling