Most of us never consider what happens to the innumerable beer and wine bottles we throw away on a daily basis – they just go straight in the bin (“problem solved!”) – and most bars and restaurants are no different. Yet, the good people at The Globe in SoHo are making a case for an alternative.
“Doesn’t it seem like such a ridiculous waste throwing away all this glass?” asks Toby Cooper, manager of The Globe pub in SoHo. “In the UK it was the first thing that was ever recycled; everywhere else, it relatively easy to recycle.” When you consider that glass is 100% recyclable, yet normally ends up in landfills (where it will never decompose), you can quite see his point.
The Globe has been recycling their waste glass since September 2010. Twice a week, on a Thursday and Saturday morning, a truck comes to collect bags of glass at specific collections points in the SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong area – a scheme they were instrumental in helping set up. This glass is then taken to be recycled into new paving stone that can be used in construction.
So how did this all get started? “Basically, we heard about a small scheme in Wan Chai, run by April Lai of Green Glass Green. That’s how we started recycling our own glass, later helping to organise collections from other bars and restaurants in the area,” tells Toby. To date, over 25 venues in the area taking part in the glass-recycling scheme, including California Vintage, Life Café and Eclipse Group outlets.
Having witnessed first-hand the amount of the waste glass dumped at landfills, The Hong Kong Dumper Truck Drivers Association (many of whose members haul construction and demolition waste from construction sites) started Green Glass Green as a step towards a greener and more sustainable recycling practice in Hong Kong.
The small amount of funding from the government’s Environment and Conservation Fund the receive helps pay for the recycled rice bags to keep the glass in, and transportation costs to take the glass to a factory in Tuen Mun (run by a start up company from HK Polytechnic) where the glass is broken down and recycled.
“What we’re looking for now is to move it forward. We’d like to open it up to everyone. I’m telling people they can come and drop glass off here on a Thursday, because we have a bit of space, so it’ll be collected with our own glass waste twice a week,” says Toby.
As an established area of bars and restaurants with a distinct community feel, Toby feels that SoHo is ideal to show how such recycling schemes can be effective. “It has to be community-led, and it only takes one person that cares in each shop to implement it,” he suggests, saying, “it’s no harder than how rubbish is currently dealt with; all you need is an extra bin for the glass. There’s a scheme going on Lamma Island now as well, so it shows that people are getting behind the idea.”
If you want to recycle your waste glass, bring it to: The Globe, UG/F, Garley Building, 45-53 Graham Street, Central, or get in touch by calling 2543 1941 or via twitter (@theglobehk). Green Glass Green’s other collection areas in town can be found on their website: www.greenglass.org.hk