Recycling and Composting
After one look at a Hong Kong beach littered with rubbish following a heavy rainfall, you may be wondering just how much plastic and other waste gets recycled in Hong Kong. Certainly compared to Europe and parts of the United States, the recycling infrastructure in Hong Kong is limited.
Plastic recyclables, for example, have to be sorted by hand and there is no mandatory recycling scheme in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, there are very few recycling facilities in Hong Kong, so that most of the waste collected for recycling is sent to other countries, where it is often incinerated or dumped into landfill or waterways. It is estimated that as little as 7% of what is collected for recycling in Hong Kong actually gets recycled.
Given this depressing reality, environmentalists in Hong Kong tend to emphasize waste reduction at the source (hence the proliferation of zero-waste and plastic-free shops in recent years — see Zero-Waste Stores and Secondhand Goods for more). After you’ve reduced all you can, here is where and how to recycle in Hong Kong.
It is estimated that as little as 7% of what is collected for recycling in Hong Kong actually gets recycled.
What to Recycle and Where
The Environmental Protection Department manages around 18,000 tricolor recycling bins across the city where members of the public can place waste paper (paperboard, newspaper and office paper), plastics (rinsed containers for beverages and personal care products), and metals. The EPD also recently started offering glass collection bins.
Different housing estates and buildings have specific arrangements for recycling; some house tricolor bins by arrangement with the EPD, while others contract with private recycling companies. Check with your building management to find out where, what and how to recycle. Keep in mind that many buildings offer collection points for recyclables, but unless they are paying for a recycling service, it is likely to end up in the landfill.
You can also take your waste to one of the 17 government-funded collection points, or Community Recycling Centers (CRC), that make up the Community Recycling Network. Most of the CRCs are small courtyards or buildings where materials are sorted and prepped for recycling.
The Community Recycling Network is supplemented by Community Green Stations (CGS) where special items like fluorescent lamps and tubes, rechargeable batteries and plastic- or aluminum-coated beverage/milk cartons can be recycled. CGS also provide educational programs about recycling and conservation for the public. Nine CGS are currently operating, with plans to open one in each of Hong Kong’s 18 districts.
The government’s Waste Reduction site has a list of what can be recycled through CGS and CRC in Hong Kong, as well as a list of where to recycle other items such as clothing, food, furniture, computers, and toner cartridges.
The EPD also has a Waste Less app with a useful map of collection points, which can be filtered by location and type of material.
Refillable Water Stations
Drinking water stations are available around the city. Although the government swiftly closed drinking fountains in parks and public spaces when the coronavirus epidemic began, there are still bottle-refilling points that are open to the public.
Water for Free (available as a website and app) has a list of fountains and businesses where you can refill your bottle. Smart water dispenser company Urban Spring also has a website where you can search for the nearest publicly accessible dispenser.
Although there is no public composting service, here are some resources for households seeking to recycle their food waste.
Donating Unneeded Items
Many recent arrivals from Europe or North America find that they’ve brought too much “stuff” to fit into their new Hong Kong apartments.
Items that are no longer needed, but which are still in good condition, can be offered to your helper (who may know someone in her home country who could use it); sold on GeoExpat, AsiaXpat or a Facebook Group; or donated to one of the following organizations (some of which are charities, and some for-profit social enterprises):
- GoodCity (Operated by Crossroads Foundation)
- Salvation Army
- Rebooked (English-language children’s books)
- You can also try donating English books to local schools
- Community Used Clothes Recycling Bank Scheme (All clothing)
- KidsDressSmart (High-end children’s clothing)
- Redress (All clothing)
- Retykle (High-end children’s clothing)
- Suits for Success (Business attire)
- St. James’ Settlement Green Ladies and Green Little (Women’s and children’s clothing)