Green venture to hire marginalised workers for home recycling pick-up

For a low monthly fee, non-profit venture will come to your home once a week for collection

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 10:13am

An innovative, non-profit-making recycling programme hopes to transform the way waste is recycled in the city, while also helping the disadvantaged.

HK Recycles' plan is simple and straightforward. You sign up for their service online, they provide you with hard, non-woven bags for your recyclables, then once a week they come and collect it from you. And recycling collectors will be hired almost exclusively from the city's marginalised groups. Initially collections will be every Friday, but as the project expands more collection days will be added. The first collections will be on August 31.

The project has started operations in Causeway Bay, Admiralty, Happy Valley and Kennedy Town, with about 50 households already signed up. There is a small cost involved. Customers pay HK$100 for the first month, then HK$80 per month after that. Credit cards can be used.

The company only employs five people at the moment, but founder Brian Mak has big ambitions.

"By the end of next year, we hope to have 1,000 customers. We're going to recycle more than 300-400 pounds [136-181kg] in our first month alone," he said. "With 1,000 people signed up, our goal is to have recycled 1 million pounds by the end of next year. We only expect to break even financially, but that's not why we're doing it."

Their good intentions don't stop here. Currently the organisation is working out employment agreements with two main groups: Harmony House, a charity that helps battered women and victims of domestic abuse, and cleaning women in a local cleaning collective. Many women in both groups are single mothers with a history of physical abuse.

Mak explained HK Recycles was first and foremost a social enterprise, and aside from being environmentally focused, it aimed to contribute to the community by creating employment opportunities for those who needed them most. He hoped to employ about 30-50 people from marginalised backgrounds.

"By providing employment for people who would otherwise not be employable and paying above-market wages, our hope is to equip and empower these people," he said. "To help them overcome tough personal conditions and give them the confidence and resources needed to flourish in Hong Kong."

HK Recycles also intends to donate a percentage of the revenue it makes from recyclables to charities and community groups in the region.

For details visit http://www.hkrecycles.com or e-mail contact@hkrecycles.com