The integrated information about recyclables in Hong Kong
The recycling system in Hong Kong has always been denounced by the public, in which the recycling station in the society has no unified target of collecting the same category of recyclables. In April 2020, Green Sense had undertaken an online survey regarding the shopping packaging. Over 40% of the respondents indicated that they were unclear about the categories of different recyclables, in the meantime, 20% of the respondents denoted that they were unfamiliar with the information on where to collect the recyclables . In addition, there were news revealed earlier that some collected recyclables of private estates were delivered right away to the landfill instead of the recycling station, this has undoubtedly strike a serious blow at the confidence from the public towards the recycling system in Hong Kong. Therefore, what could the public do in order to collect recyclables by oneself? With a view to encourage the public to recycle, different types of recyclables collection points are listed below.
Three Paper Two Plastics
China, Hong Kong SAR government emphasized on educating the public to recycle the clean “Three Paper Two plastics” into household, workplace and roadside recycling system respectively. “Three paper” indicates cardboard, newspaper and office paper, while “Two Plastics” indicated beverage plastic bottles and personal care product plastic bottles. Accordingly, the usual recycling bins that appeared on roadside and estates could only accept “Three Paper and Two Plastics” (except the estates participated in the Plastic Recycling Pilot Scheme).
Image 1: “Three Paper Two Plastics” (Three Paper: Newspaper, Office Paper and Cardboard). Source: Hong Kong Waste Reduction Website 
Image 2: “Three Paper Two Plastics” (Two plastics: Beverage plastic bottles and Personal care product plastic bottles). Source: Hong Kong Waste Reduction Website 
Other plastics except the “Two Plastics”
Apart from the “Two plastics” mentioned above, there are generally seven types of plastics, in which six of them could be recycled:
- No.1 (PET)*: Beverage Bottle Lid, Plastic Cup etc., where a concave and big dot could be found on the bottom of the bottle.
- No.2*: Laundry Soap, Laundry Softener, Shower Gel Bottle etc., where a horizontal interface could be found on the bottom of the bottle.
- No.3 (PVC): Cling Wrap, Raincoat etc. This type of plastic will release harmful chemicals when it encounters combustion. There is currently a lack of technology in treating this type of plastic in Hong Kong.
- No.4 (LDPE): Plastic Bag with handle, Tissue Bag, Fruit Net, Bubble Wrap
- No.5 (PP): Microwaved Food Container, Bottle Lid, Transparent Bag
- No.6 (PS): CD Case, Yakult Bottle, Polyfoam, Plastic Cup Lid (Translucent)
- No.7: CD, Acrylic, Polycarbonate PC, Resin Cutlery
*Bottle Lid and Label belongs to different types of plastics, and therefore separate recycling is required.
Public and citizens may visit “Community Green Stations” (CGS) for recycling the plastics listed above (No.1-No.7, excluding No.3 & Polyfoam).
For detail of CGS, please visit: https://www.wastereduction.gov.hk/en/community/cgs_intro.htm
Polyfoam is commonly utilized for single use food container, filler of the packaging etc. In spite of the wide variety of distinct polyfoam, a lot of them could be recycled. For example:
- Disposable food container (Rinse out food and oil stain before recycling)
- Polyfoam Packaging Box
- Foam Fruit Net
- Packaging Buffer/ Polyfoam EPS Board
- Packing peanuts and Filler
The collected polyfoam will be compressed and go through a number of recycling processes, eventually transformed into recycled PS/ PE materials.
Details of Polyfoam recycling stations, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/polyfoamrecyclinghk/
Image 3: Diagram for distinguishing Recyclable and Non-recyclable Polyfoam. Source: Polyfoam Recycling Scheme
Paper Package Drinks Recycling
In 2018, the daily average of carton-boxes disposal amount was 67 tonne in Hong Kong . Many have misunderstood that paper-packaged drinks cannot be recycled, which, in reality, they could be recycled!
Simple steps to recycling paper-packaged drinks:
- Step 1: remove plastic straw and wrapping
- Step 2: Cut and flatten the carton
- Step 3: Rinse with water*
- Step 4: Place into recycling sites: MilMill recycling stations**
* Before recycling, it is important to clean the cartons with water. If the cartons are contaminated, mould may develop in the processing stage, rendering the recycled material spoiled garbage.
**For more paper-packaged drinks carton collection points, please visit Mil Mill’s collection point map: bit.ly/MilMillMap
Image 4. A Guide to Recycling Paper Packaged Drinks
More details about Green Sense Charity Event: Drink Carton Boxes Recycling Programme, please visit: http://greensense.org.hk/en/?p=5575
Plastic Recycling Pilot Scheme
The Environmental Protection Department has initiated the Plastic Recycling Pilot Scheme early on in January of 2020, with an aim to expand the category of existing recyclables and increase the numbers of recycling facilities, so as to prepare the rising number of recyclables in Hong Kong in the future. The two-year Pilot scheme is rolled out through which contractors are engaged under service contracts to provide free collection service for waste plastics from registered premises for non-commercial and non-industrial sources such as public and private housing estates, schools and public institutions, Community Recycling Centres and CGSs in the districts .
A wide range of recyclables can be collected under the Pilot Scheme, including plastic bags (e.g. carrier bags, rice bags, plastic packaging bags), plastic containers (e.g. plastic bottles, plastic buckets, plastic boxes, microwave containers, yogurt cups, tofu boxes), polyfoam (e.g. fruit nets, polyfoam boxes, protective polyfoam materials), plastic tableware, plastic straws, CDs, bubble wraps and other plastic packaging materials .
The contractor – Success Grand Environmental Limited will undertake the Pilot Scheme in Eastern District that have progressively commenced since late January 2020, while the pilot scheme in Kwun Tong and Sha Tin districts are expected to commence in the third quarter of 2020. Take Success Grand Environmental Limited as an example, the contractor will allocate the collected recyclable plastics from over 70 collection points in Eastern District to Yuen Long Recycling Centre . The recyclable plastics are undergoing further process such as sorting, crashing and granulating into plastic raw materials or recycled plastic products. They will be exported or supplied to the local and overseas market so as to ensure that the waste plastics collected are properly handled.
Image 5: Different types of recyclable plastics under the Plastic Recycling Pilot Scheme. Source: The Environmental Protection Department
Image 6: The Recycling Bin under the Plastic Recycling Pilot Scheme
The Public and private estates that have in the pilot scheme are able to recycle plastics and polyfoam with No.1-2, 4-7 in the designated collection bins.
The collection points in Eastern district are listed here: https://eastern.successgrand.com.hk/recycleBin.html
As the pilot scheme in Kwun Tong and Sha Tin district will be launched in the third quarter of 2020, and therefore, we recommend citizens whom lives in district that is not involved in pilot scheme could recycle in the CGS nearby.
Where do the plastics go?
- Green Sense (2020), <Online Purchase Packaging Survey 2020>, http://greensense.org.hk/en/?p=5679
- The Environmental Protection Department (2018), The Environmental Protection Department: “Three Paper Two Plastics”, https://www.wastereduction.gov.hk/wrp/recycling/paper_plastic_poster_en.html
- The Environmental Protection Department (2019), “Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong”, https://www.wastereduction.gov.hk/sites/default/files/msw2018.pdf
- The Environmental Protection Department (2020), Plastic Recycling Pilot Scheme, https://www.wastereduction.gov.hk/en/pilot_scheme_collect_recycle_plastics.htm
- HK01.com (2020), 《東區首試中央收膠 承辦商月收逾十噸廢膠 最怕廚餘棄回收箱》, https://bit.ly/3fZlisV (Chinese only)