Study Buddy (Challenger): Hong Kong social enterprise shows how to reduce ocean pollution by recycling plastic

  • Founder of Ocean Material shares about the experiences that led him to looking for new ways to use plastic waste collected from oceans
  • This page is for students who want to take their understanding to the next level with difficult vocabulary and questions that will test their inference skills
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Ocean Material’s recycling workshops at The Mills help raise awareness about plastic pollution. Photo: Ocean Material

Content provided by British Council

Read the following text, and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] Toni Kienberger has always had a strong connection with the ocean. A keen surfer, diver and kite surfer, he spends much of his free time on Hong Kong’s coastline “enjoying the diverse marine environment”. But after several years, Kienberger – who was born in Germany but has called Hong Kong home for 13 years – started to notice that things were not so great in the great outdoors.

[2] “I saw how marine habitats were being impacted by human activities,” he said. “First, it was the quantity of waste drifting back to the coastline, after being dumped offshore. Then, it was the quantity of plastic within the ocean itself, and how it not only affected fishing populations, but also the people who depended on it for their livelihood.”

[3] On travels across Asia, he also noticed some countries’ inability to deal with the scale of the problem because of a lack of infrastructure. “Many Asian countries are a network of islands with interconnected waterways that make controlling waste entering them – and ultimately our food chain – extremely difficult,” Kienberger said.

[4] The father of three boys was also concerned about the state of the planet for future generations. His concerns are justified. A 2022 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the total amount of global plastic waste will almost triple by 2060; two-thirds of it is made up of short-lived items such as plastic packaging. Plastic leakages are expected to double by 2060, furthering concerns about plastic pollution in our marine ecosystem.

[5] But Kienberger also noticed something else: a growing movement of grass-roots environmentalism. “On Lantau, I encountered people involved in beach clean-ups ... it inspired my journey,” explained Kienberger, who has experience in marketing, innovation and operations across Asia, primarily with luxury brands.

[6] “I was active in business activities experimenting with using ocean plastic as a feedstock in their material production and recognised how large a potential market there could be, and how materials can be applied to everything from retail to construction, replacing other virgin materials that come with their own environmental problems. If good-quality materials can be applied to luxury brands, would it not be more purposeful – and altruistic – to apply that model to everyday products and materials?”

[7] In 2021, he founded Ocean Material, a Hong Kong-based social enterprise that works with collector programmes and recycling specialists with the aim of replacing virgin plastic with responsibly sourced materials to reduce ocean pollution.

[8] Ocean Material holds workshops designed for schools at The Mills in Tsuen Wan to raise awareness of plastic pollution’s impact on the environment and human health. Participants learn how to use small-scale recycling machines to turn ocean plastic waste into products such as flowerpots and coasters.

[9] “These workshops are the perfect opportunity to learn about the consumer culture we live in and its consequences – and how everyone can make a change by becoming a mindful consumer,” he said, adding that repurposing waste as a valued material resource created environmental and social benefits. “If we expand this market further, we could drive new technological advancements that would make Asia a beacon of sustainable development, product innovation and environmental awareness, which would allow marine habitats the opportunity to recover naturally and achieve equilibrium.”

For more information on workshops by Ocean Material, visit
Source: South China Morning Post, September 13


1. The writer describes Kienberger as someone with “a strong connection with the ocean” in paragraph 1 because ...
A. he works at sea
B. he is from Germany
C. he spends most of his leisure time doing water sports
D. he lives next to the city’s coastline

2. What did Kienberger observe about the effect of human actions on marine life, according to paragraph 2?

3. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, what is most plastic waste in 2060 likely to be?

4. What example of “grass-roots environmentalism” is mentioned in paragraph 5?

5. In paragraph 6, the “potential market” refers to ...
A. the business of using ocean plastic to create products
B. changing the process of how plastic is created
C. persuading consumers to ditch plastic for other materials
D. all of the above

6. Find a word in paragraph 6 meaning “basic material that is used to produce something else in an industrial process”.

7. According to paragraph 8, what sort of hands-on experience does Ocean Material offer student participants?

8. Decide whether the following statements as True, False or the information is Not Given in the text. Blacken ONE circle only for each statement. (4 marks)
(i) Rivers in Asian countries are highly polluted with domestic and agricultural waste.
(ii) Ocean Material is a non-profit organisation that Kienberger started in 2021.
(iii) The ultimate aim of Ocean Material is to reduce ocean pollution.
(iv) By 2060, plastic waste is projected to increase by two-thirds, based on forecasts from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
(v) Kienberger believes repurposing waste is crucial for reducing pollution’s effects on marine life.

9. According to paragraph 9, how does Kienberger envisage Asia’s future?

Ocean Material’s free recycling workshops at The Mills in Tsuen Wan teach students how to transform waste into new products using small-scale recycling machines. Photo: Ocean Material


1. C
2. The fishing population has been affected by the rise in waste drifting back to the coastline after being dumped offshore. / The fishing population has been affected by the large amount of plastic in the ocean. (any one)
3. short-lived items such as plastic packaging
4. beach clean-ups on Lantau
5. A
6. feedstock
7. They teach students how to use small-scale recycling machines to turn collected ocean plastic waste into products such as flowerpots and coasters.
8. (i) NG; (ii) F; (iii) T; (iv) F; (v) T
9. He envisages that Asia will become a beacon of sustainable development, product innovation and environmental awareness.

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