A visit to find out where our plastics go

There is ongoing discussion on the need and urgency to exercise waste separation at source and reduce the use of plastics. We have been making a bigger call to reuse and recycle plastic bottles. Then where do the plastic bottles go after we put them into the plastics recyclables collection bins all over the city?

Our Green Officers had a convincing and eye-opening visit to the Kowloon Bay Plastic Sorting Centre a while ago, which was an opportunity to know more about what’s happening around Hong Kong generally on plastic recyclables. This sorting centre currently performs as an interim support measure locally to collect, sort and recycle waste plastic of Category 1 and 2 (i.e. polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE)). It handles thousands tonnes of plastic bottles on a daily basis, and a large portion of these bottles is from local beverage manufacturers.  Followed by preliminary process such as sorting and baling, the collected waste plastic will be sent to downstream and suitable recycling outlets.

The sorting centre did not look dirty and messy as one might have imagined. On the contrary, it was well organized into different zones to perform distinctive functions.  Pre-sorted plastic bottles piled up as mountains inside the centre, and there were bales of compressed plastics around. 

Pre-sorted bottles being classified Bales of compressed plastics

 

Guided by the centre’s staff, the Green Officers were introduced to the various types of common plastics and their respective numberingas well as the procedures of plastics weighing, sorting and handling. They also participated in an activity to manually sort the plastics and remove the lids from the bottles. 

Staff introducing the various types of common plastics An attempt to manually sort the bottles

 

The Green Officers learned some stories behind-the-scene. They were reminded of the importance of clean recycling and rinsing of bottle containers before dropping them into collection bins. They were also introduced to some innovative and interesting products such as blankets, jackets, and beds that were made from recycled plastics. 

Discuss on plastic waste problem in Hong Kong Recycled plastics made into blankets

 

This visit offered the Green Officers an impressive lesson on plastic waste problem in Hong Kong and insights on plastic reduction. The stunning conditions of plastic bottles piling up in the centre evidently tell we are facing an epidemic plastic waste problem, and in fact we can take some active steps to alleviate this if we start with our daily behaviors.