Drink Without Waste with Hong Kong’s new recycling initiative

  • Kowloon Dairy, Vitasoy and Swire Coca Cola teamed up with the government to create a bottle and drink carton buyback scheme
  • More than 80 per cent of packaging used for beverages ends up in landfills
Amalissa Hall |

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Jeff Maguire (from left), Group Head of CDS Implementation and Packaging Sustainability at Coca-Cola Amatil; Edwin Lau Che-feng, Founder and Executive Director of The Green Earth; and Paul Zimmerman, Chairman of Drink Without Waste. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Drink Without Waste is a new recycling initiative introduced on December 17. Organised by the Single-Use Beverage Packaging Working Group in partnership with the Hong Kong Government and major beverage companies, the scheme aims to reduce drinks packaging waste in the city by paying citizens HK$0.05 per bottle or carton they recycle.

Watsons Water, Vitasoy and Swire Coca Cola are responsible for half the packaged beverages sold in Hong Kong, and are on the list of companies that have pledged to work alongside the group. They have spent the past two years working to put together an appropriate recycling scheme, and aim to recover 70 per cent to 90 per cent of used beverage packaging by 2025.

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“We believe that people have lost trust; consumers put things in the bin because they don’t think it will all get sorted anyway,” Paul Zimmerman, the initiative’s chairman, said.

Currently, 80 per cent of packaging used for beverages ends up in landfills, and in a survey conducted by Drink Without Waste, one fifth of people who do not recycle believe that returned bottles end up in landfills.

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The plan is to operate both mobile and fixed recycling stations under the “Packaging Exchange”, a non-profit organisation run by industry and government representatives. Convenient collection points would allow residents to easily recycle all beverage packaging, including plastic bottles, liquid cartons and pouches, in exchange for HK$0.05.

The government has proposed “reverse vending machines”, where consumers can directly drop off their items, but Drink Without Waste wants to involve 400,000 scrap collectors, street cleaners and domestic helpers to help with the initiative.