We used to see the three-colour recycling bins on the streets of Hong Kong, which we were educated at school with the slogan of “Blue for Waste Paper, Yellow for Aluminium Cans, and Brown for Plastic Bottles”, however we encounter the enormous amount of packaging waste in daily life everyday, is it only these 3 materials can be recycled?
Recycling is a lifestyle and attitude.
In this ISSUE 12 of #EcoWithAttitude, we talk to Jorch Wong, founder of the door to door recycling service provider, The Loops Hong Kong, he is here to tell us that “No, there are over 40 recyclables that can be recycled.”, and we can even give them a second-life instead of disposing of them in the landfill. Furthermore, he is going to share his entrepreneurial, recycling journey with us. Let’s get started!
#1 What is the genesis of The Loops?
A difficulty that I was facing in 2018 to 2019, it was recycling. The residential estate where I was living, they used to organize a weekly recycling carnival. After I washed all the recyclables such as styrofoams, beverage cartons, plastic packaging and bottles, and handed to the volunteers, only the plastic bottles were accepted, neither the styrofoam nor plastic packaging could be collected, I was angry but also helpless.
Hence, I started to do my own research, and discovered that there were other recycling streams in town, such as Missing Link- Polyfoam Recycling Scheme in Tsuen Wan, Waste No Mall in different districts, organized by the volunteers. However, since I am living in Lam Tin where there are no recycling stations, the only way for me was to travel to other districts with a pile of recyclables, and also not knowing where to recycle with most of the materials as well.
At that moment, I was desperate for a door to door recycling service to solve the problems that I was facing. In 2019, I decided to quit my advertising job, started learning about coding and developing apps. By Februay 2020, I rolled out this program in Tseung Kwan O, started with only 2 customers to 20 in a week time, and with the strong support from different media, customers and word of mouth, we are already covering over 7 districts today.
#2 Who is your offer targeting?
Apart from the one-stop recycling household service, we also provide office recycling and citywide programs. For example, we are partnering with Watsons Hong Kong and P&G for the “Plastic Reborn” container recycling program, setting up collection points across the city to collect two types of plastic personal care containers, including PET and HDPE bottles, every plastic bottle returned to the Watsons stores, customer can earn one Plastic Reborn eStamp. We have also partnered up with Nan Fung Group, collecting the discarded bamboo chopsticks, wooden toys, and more.
Courtesy: The Loops Hong Kong
Courtesy: The Loops Hong Kong
#3 As corporate, what could they do towards sustainability?
Patagonia is a pioneer and a company with strong vision in the industry, actively promoting sustainability on taking actions and also with financial support. In most companies, sustainability might not be able to roll out immediately and holistically, however, the company can at least implement the recycling program to collect their own branded packaging and products first, afterwards it can be extended to the office, and even allowing customers to return other branded packaging and containers, to complete the whole story of recycling program.
#4 How The Loops outstand its offer and make it accessible to public?
No longer an experience with carrying the bulky recyclables to the recycling station but “All In One”. No matter individuals or corporate clients, as long as the recyclables are clean, dry and put them into our provided basket, The Loops will come and collect. Not only plastic bottles, paper, metals and glass, The Loops covers over 40 different recyclables that user encounters mostly in their daily life, such as wooden products, ceramics, ice packs, isothermal bags, and even tennis balls, x-ray films, PVC plastic can be collected. Last November, we launched the service of collecting the unwashed cosmetic containers, such as foundation, mascara bottles. Individuals can learn more how to rinse the recyclables and what can be recycled through our apps.
We also launch our a rewarding program “Reward 128”, our users will receive vouchers from different sustainable brands and service providers, such as coupons from GreenPrice and Slowood, eco-friendly dog poop bag #INVISIBLEPOOBAG, soap made from used cooking oil, and define CLEAN powder-form cleaning products, there is also another product which is invented by a Hong Kong female scientist, the first made in Hong Kong sanitary pad “La Rosee” which could detect of cervical cancer.
Furthermore, we aim to educate consumers on how to do recycling through a fun and interesting way, for example, we have introduced the top 10 recyclables which are difficult to be washed on social media, then consumers can discover the life hacks to rinse their recyclables.
Courtesy: The Loops Hong Kong
Courtesy: La Rosee
Courtesy: The Loops Hong Kong
#5 How do you see the consumer’s perception towards recycling since started?
In the overall atmosphere, even though not everyone can achieve sustainable living, but now people are more paying attention to the eco-friendly topics compare to 2018. For example, the government is planning to launch the “Muncipal Solid Waste Charging”, although it has been postponed from Q1 to Q3, from tender proposal to printing bin liner, inspection to launching, still a room for doubt if it can be implemented as planned, by charing around HK$50 per household, it might not bring a significant change to some citizens nor influence them from disposing to recycling. However, a positive impact is made that the general public are actively discussing on this topic and also their awareness is increased, they are keen on looking for solutions to reduce waste.
In most organizations, they have already set different goals towards ESG and achiving sustainability, hence, implementing recycling programs in the office becomes the easiest and first step, the cost is controllable and also not affecting the operation of the organization. The Loops is already partnering with multiple finance and banking organizations for the office recycling.
Furthermore, we notice that most of the recyclables from household are plastic waste and food packaging, such as plastic bags, snacks packaging, glass bottles. On the other hand, paper waste is the biggest in corporates, following by disposable coffee cups, snacks packaging, wine bottles, styrofoam fruit nets, we also collected fluorescent tubes, printer ink cartridges.
#6 There are many alternatives in the market to replace conventional plastic, how do you see them and distinguish them for recycling?
In my point of view, there are two different categories. First, I would weigh if the material and product can truly deliver the result as claimed. For sure it is a good solution if the plastic packaging is no longer required to be recycled and can be completely biodegraded. However, we have collected many disposable plastic containers which claim to be biodegradable but in fact it is unreal and would only cause the inconvenience of sorting and recycling. We have also received another polyfoam container from an ice cream company, claimed to be compostable, however after 6 months of composting testing, the result showed there was no change. And many disposable bowl of a noodles restaurant chain were collected, claimed to be totally degradable but in fact it is not.
#7 What’s your daily action to promote sustainability? And what’s your upcoming plan in 2023?
I am learning everyday how to reduce my negative impact on the environment, how to reduce carbon footprint. For me, bring your own container and cultery is the basic thing already. A story to share, I used to dine in a restaurant close by the office, since I noticed that they changed the paper containers to disposable plastic, I stopped visiting them.
On this sustainable journey, I try all my best to take actions on my own first, I wouldn’t be angry if my family, friends or neighbours couldn’t recycle or act the same as I do. When I dine out with friends, I would at least bring back my own beverage cartons or cans for recycling, once my friends observed a few more times, they would take the initiative and ask if I could help to recycle too, and I believe this is a process.
For 2023, I have a bigger prospect, our target is to have at least 50% coverage of the residential areas in Hong Kong by the end of the year, and we will start providing services in Yuen Long District soon. And we expect in the next five years, the awareness of the general public towards environmental protection and recycling will increase, and the act of recycling can become a lifestyle and attitude.
#8 Any fun / memorable stories?
We have quite a lot of mum users, we have collected many milk powder tins, from first infant baby milk powder formula to toddler, afterwards we started collecting wooden toys to baby bather, it seems like I have been witnessing the growth of a child. I have also another user who used to carry her baby while passing me the recyclables, and to the moment while the baby grew up and took over the job of her mum, and they even invited me to join their dinner before immigration, for me that’s a memorable experience which I wouldn’t experience it if I am still working in the advertising field.
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