What happens to all that plastic that we try so hard to recycle

If you’re anything like us, you always make sure to carefully separate your trash and dispose of it in the correct recycling bin. You feel like you’ve done your part, but what really happens to it after it’s supposedly sent to be magically repurposed into something else? 

There were rumours that waste destined for recycling is simply sent to landfills because it’s less trouble.

This was confirmed when an investigation last year discovered that nearly two-thirds of housing estates in Hong Kong surveyed were sending plastic bottles collected in recycling bins, to landfill! 

In its 2013 waste reduction plan, the Hong Kong government set a target that, by 2022, each person would throw away no more than 0.8kg of waste per day, but this target is unlikely to be reached because… 

“In 2018, Hong Kongers sent an average of 1.53kgs per person of solid waste to landfills every day; just 30% of this was recycled.”

How has this happened? 

Some say that it’s because of the low value of plastics in Hong Kong. 1kg of collected, separated and processed plastic waste may give recyclers just HKD$0.30- $0.50, lower than a few years ago. Also, most plastics are not recyclable in Hong Kong, of the seven types of plastic materials, only three are able to be recycled by local plants through the government scheme. 


How can we fix this?

Hong Kong plans to build adequate waste-to-energy facilities so that it no longer needs to rely on landfills by 2035. Aside from this sizeable goal, the government needs to provide monetary subsidies to recyclers to encourage proper collection and recycling. 

Basically, we (as in you and me) need to start getting smart about how we manage our own waste and look beyond our rubbish bins. We know it’s hard to figure it all out, but thankfully Hong Kong is working hard to develop an effective recycling system that is easy to use.

Not only do we have the likes of independently operated Love Recycling Plus and other smaller scale recycling entities, the Environmental Protection Department are finally stepping up. The GREEN @ COMMUNITY initiative launched in late 2020, a community recycling network that is available on a broad scale across the city with 133 recycling points in total for you to access.

Click here to find your local recycling point.


What can we recycle?

  • Glass bottles
  • Beverage cartons
  • Fluorescent lamps and tubes
  • Metals (tin and aluminium cans)
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Small electrical appliances (even your mobile phones)
  • Plastic bottles & bags
  • Paper 

If you want to learn more about using the GREEN @ COMMUNITY check out our bestie’s page to find out more.

As it turns out, there are some great initiatives tackling Hong Kong’s waste problem; after all, if the rest of the world produced waste like Hong Kong, we would need more than four planets to live… Yikes!

8 Steps to making your wardrobe PVC plastic free

Do you love those new wet look leggings you just bought? Or can’t get enough of your shiny, waterproof trench? I’m sorry to break it to ya but it’s probably made of PVC. 

Polyvinyl chloride, aka “PVC”, akathe poison plastic”, is the world’s third most common type of plastic. Unfortunately of all the plastics, PVC poses the most harm to animal and human health. 

Where will I find it? 

PVC is used in millions of products, including pipes, medical equipment, kitchen material, blistered packaging (think pill packs), shampoo bottles, and even clothing

Many countries have already banned the use of PVC in babies’ clothing, and consumer groups and environmental advocates have banded forces, pushing for PVC textiles to be banned outright. 

Source: Vinyl.org.au

Here’s 8 steps to making sure your wardrobe is PVC free.


1.

Source: Pinterest.com

Always check labels before making a purchase

Look out for labels with “vinyl”, “vinyon”, “phthalate”, “V” or “PVC” which means that the garment contains a form of PVC. Don’t assume that because something is designer, it’s PVC free. In recent years some fashion houses have made PVC the star of their collections.


2.

Source: Alibaba.com

The slippery slope of the “waterproof”.

Heralded for its water-resistant properties, PVC is a popular material in rainwear. So next time you’re buying a new raincoat or rain boots, check to make sure these don’t contain PVC. 


3.

Source: Toprisesafety.com

Ring the alarm when something is “fire-resistant”.

PVC fabrics are known for their toughness and often incorporated in “fire-resistant” clothing. Because it’s so durable PVC is also popular in boots and shoes. 


4.

Source: Pinterest.com

Steer clear of anything see-through! 

Do you have a see-through toiletries bag? A clear clutch? A transparent tote? A pair of sandals with a translucent strap? Unfortunately, these kitschy items that reveal what lies within are almost always made from PVC. 


5.

Source: Tsatsas.com

Don’t be fooled by the promise of vegan leather. 

The booming vegan leather industry is perched to revolutionize fashion, replacing animal skin with “sustainable” leather alternatives. Sadly, some faux leathers don’t always rely on bio-materials. Instead, they incorporate PVC to make synthetic leather that’s just as if not more harmful than its animal counterparts. 


6.

Source: Stylecaster.com

Even the sun doesn’t shine forever. 

PVC fabrics are often shiny and glossy. Combined with PVC’s wetlook, and figure-hugging fit, the poison plastic has been increasingly used in the production of miniskirts, minidresses, coats, corsets, and stage wear. 


7.

Source: Net-a-porter.com

Latex lingerie isn’t as sexy as it sounds. 

PVC’s leathery look makes it common in erotic lingerie. The next time you are picking out lingerie and accessories for a sensual night of bedroom fun, make sure your catsuit, corset, or thong are PVC free. 


8.

Source: vstyleblog.com

Warning: some graphic tees contain graphic content.  

While we all love graphic tees that pay homage to our favourite rock bands, many screen-printing companies actually use PVC in their prints. As a general guide, prints that feature a shiny ink are telltale sign of  PVC.


Simple plastic alternatives that you can get in Hong Kong

Adopting plastic-free alternatives that are practical and sustainable doesn’t have to be difficult. Changing a few key items in your life will go a long way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Here are eight plastic-free products that look, and do good. 


1.

Bamboo Toothbrushes

Globally, about 23 billion plastic toothbrushes are trashed each year, each one taking up to 500 years to fully decompose. Bamboo is a natural material, is fast-growing and 100% biodegradable, decomposing in landfill within 6 months.


2.

Steel Containers and Drinking Straws

Consider switching out your plastic lunch container and straws for steel ones; steel can be infinitely recycled and is 100% recyclable without losing its quality, ensuring sturdy and durable containers for years to come.


3.

Menstrual Cups

Did you know that in 2018, over 17 billion tampons were sold globally

A less wasteful alternative is a menstrual cup, that can be safely used again and again and can hold up to three times as much liquid as a tampon! Additionally, they don’t shed microplastics, as conventional period care does. We like LUÜNA Period Cups which are made of 100% medical grade silicone, are super soft and can last for up to eight years. 


4.

Glass

While not biodegradable, glass is relatively inexpensive and infinitely recyclable. Jars can be added to your no-waste toolkit for shopping from bulk stores, or they can be repurposed to store leftovers, use as sprouting jars or serve as decorations around the house. 


5.

Natural Fibres

Natural fibres are just that – natural and won’t shed microplastics when washed or used unlike synthetic fibres like polyester or acrylic that are more problematic for the environment and often used for cleaning & in the kitchen. Natural fibres include organic cotton, hemp and bamboo.


6.

Organic Cotton Bags

As less than 5% of the 1 trillion single-use plastic bags discarded each year gets recycled, consider switching to organic cotton bags, which are free of chemical residues and decompose in landfill within 5 months. Check out Slowood’s reusable organic cotton bags. It may be helpful to put a reusable bag in your handbag or backpack and car to make sure that you don’t need to buy a new reusable bag everytime you go out!


7.

Shampoo & Soap Bars

Shampoo & soap bars cut out the need for plastic bottles. Even better, many of them are free of palm oil, an ingredient linked to deforestation, like those of Ethique and Meow Meow Tweet. Additionally, shampoo bars are more effective than most conventional shampoos; on average, a one bar will outlast two to three bottles of liquid shampoo. 


8.

Compostable Garbage Bags

Plastic bin liners leave an awful lot of additional waste in their wake because they eventually breakdown into microplastics in landfill. Thankfully Live Zero stock these fab 100% biodegradable and compostable bin liners.


As you eliminate plastic from your life, you’re not only cutting your own contribution to the waste stream, you’re modeling more sustainable living for those around you. As demand for more sustainable business practices grows, companies will respond and use of harmful plastics can be stemmed.

Here’s to consumer power. 

Love recycling in Hong Kong

Plastics have been dominating the headlines in recent years, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s an epidemic we are facing as a global population, with certain countries making strides in recent years to combat; either through elimination altogether or recycling programmes. What we have on offer in Hong Kong is, frankly, dismal, with options few and far between, and much confusion to go along with it. However, there is hope on the horizon, with new avenues for us to explore.

Love Recycling Plus was founded by a former UK resident, who was used to an extensive recycling habit and upon return to Hong Kong, was sorely disappointed to find that while people were willing to recycle, the government’s free service was both inefficient and almost completely ineffective. Collection points were not tended to often enough and led to over spilling – as a result, recycling matter was simply being diverted to general waste. Whatever was in the recycling bins was deemed unfit for recycling due to dirt or contamination and as a result, was just taken straight to the landfill.

Frustrating, indeed. 


Providing customers with their own bins, Love Recycling Plus accepts the following:

  • Glass: wine and beer bottles, glass jars.
  • Metal: aluminium drink cans, food tins, metal biscuit tins.
  • Cardboard and paper: newspaper, cardboard, A4 paper, magazines, toilet roll tubes.
  • Plastic: type 1-7 plastics, bar type 3.
  • Tetra Paks: milk or drink cartons, paper cups.
  • Miscellaneous: cup noodle pots, sweet wrappers, Styrofoam lunchboxes, crisp packets.

Here are the different types of plastics to help you get familiar with the acceptable and the bad:

  • Type 1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate a.k.a. PET or PETE): the most widely used plastic in the world including water bottles, soft drink bottles, mouthwash bottles.
  • Type 2 (High-density Polyethylene a.k.a. HDPE): another versatile, durable plastic found in shampoo bottles, milk bottles, cleaning product bottles.
  • Type 3 (Polyvinyl Chloride a.k.a. PVC): the only plastic that is not recyclable and should be avoided in the first place, it tends to end up in the incinerator or landfill where its dioxin production is toxic to humans and animals. These include: toys, baby dishes, PVC pipes, clingfilm, vinyl flooring, blister packs and clamshell containers.
  • Type 4 (Low-Density Polyethylene a.k.a. LDPE): squeeze bottles, bubble wrap, six pack rings.
  • Type 5 (Polypropylene a.k.a. PP): plastic straws, yoghurt pots, ice cream containers.
  • Type 6 (Polystyrene or Styrofoam a.k.a. PS): egg cartons, disposable cutlery, disposable cups.
  • Type 7 (Miscellaneous Plastics a.k.a OTHER): all rigid, unlabelled plastic can be considered a miscellaneous plastic, such as: baby bottles. CDs, water cooler bottles.

As you can see, it can be easy to recycle properly but it takes commitment (and a little extra cash to subscribe). If it means your next trip to the beach doesn’t leave you wading through plastic, surely that’s worth it?