The phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” frequently quoted at funerals reminds us that at some point even our own bodies will eventually decompose, like almost everything else on Earth – however, there are some notable exceptions. One of these is expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, commonly known as styrofoam, which can take thousands of years to come apart in the airless, lightless environment of a landfill – a staggeringly long time! Even when it does get exposure to the sun and wind, it never really completely decomposes. Indeed, each of us can play a role to build a comprehensive styrofoam recycling value chain in our hometown.
Andy Li, a member of the post-80s generation, initiated the Missing Link-Polyfoam Recycling Scheme (Missing Link) in 2015 with the support of the Environment and Conservation Fund. The aims of this government-funded platform run by the Hong Kong Association of Youth Development (Tsuen Wan District Branch) are to establish mature collection and downstream recycling channels for styrofoam, minimise valuable resources being discarded in landfills and promote local polystyrene recycling with educational activities in the community. Andy wants to correct the misconception about the recyclability of styrofoam, and educate the community that styrofoam – once processed and upcycled – can actually be transformed into products with great resale value.
Under the leadership of Andy, and with the passionate support from a team of 12, including three full-time staff and nine part-time staff and volunteers, Missing Link has expanded quickly in the past six years. Today it has two styrofoam compacting machines in its more than 2,000-square-foot plant in Tsuen Wan. However, despite Andy’s tireless efforts in fighting for more resources, the daily capacity of this non-profit-making organisation is only about 800 kilograms (kg) to 1,000 kg, which is minimal as compared to the 80,000 kg of styrofoam disposed of daily at landfills throughout Hong Kong.
Before the pandemic, Missing Link mainly received styrofoam boxes from the industrial and commercial sectors, non-staple food markets, the government’s GREEN@COMMUNITY recycling network, schools and community centres. However, since the outbreak of the fifth COVID-19 wave at the start of this year, styrofoam boxes, used to bring vegetables over the border, have piled up on the streets due to the disrupted transportation between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Andy started to receive calls for help from fresh market operators like Link who want to process styrofoam boxes in a more environmentally friendly way. Taking Link as an example, it has been delivering styrofoam boxes collected from its fresh markets to Missing Link’s plant in Tsuen Wan twice a week since March.
While Missing Link has not been able to single-handedly process the dramatically increased amount of styrofoam boxes since the pandemic outbreak, Andy has referred some downstream recyclers to fresh market operators with the hope of creating additional channels to handle the overwhelming amount of styrofoam boxes to keep them out of landfills. One of these, Kingway Development HK Limited, used to process water-filled barriers and plastic helmets in addition to styrofoam boxes, has devoted more resources and increased manpower to styrofoam box recycling to help meet the surging demand from fresh market operators, including Link.
“The recycling volume in three of our plants spanning Yuen Long, Sheung Shui and Tuen Mun has significantly increased from about 1,000 kg per day before the pandemic outbreak to 6,000 kg per day today,” said Ken Fok, Director of Kingway Development. “Not only compress the styrofoam boxes, but we also upcycle them into plastic pellets that comply with international standards for export. These pellets are perfect for end-of-use manufacturing, including things like electrical accessories, injection moulding, garbage bags and composite lumber.”
For years, recycling in Hong Kong has been a murky business, especially styrofoam recycling. “Styrofoam is lightweight, but the volume is large. Coupled with the rising logistics and recycling costs, no new operator wants to enter this industry,” Andy said with frustration. “In addition, most of the waste styrofoam is contaminated or contains impurities, hindering the recycling efficiency of styrofoam.”
“But I still have faith that every tiny step we take means a lot to the environment, and success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.”
As every small step counts, Link has stepped up its efforts in styrofoam recycling by placing compacting machines in six of its fresh markets (TKO Market, Lok Fu Market, Sau Mau Ping Market, Tin Shing Market, Wo Che Market and Tai Yuen Market), and encouraging its vegetable stall tenants to help removing the stickers on the styrofoam boxes for easier compacting the styrofoam into small solid blocks on the spot. It is expected that 60% of the styrofoam boxes produced from these markets can be recycled and therefore kept out of landfills. This not only solves the problem of finding enough storage space for the pre-processed styrofoam boxes, but it also saves on transportation costs, helping encourage more downstream recyclers to collect and upcycle the styrofoam into useful raw materials for further sale.
Dawn Chui, director of Avangard Innovative (Hong Kong) Limited, is engaged in Link’s pilot styrofoam recycling project and has provided trainings to cleaning workers at the six participating Link fresh markets since the compacting machines arrived in mid-April.
“As styrofoam boxes began piling up across Hong Kong, Link was the first and only fresh market operator willing to invest in the machinery and take up the responsibility to recycle styrofoam boxes in an environment-friendly way – I really appreciate the company’s efforts.”
Dawn hopes that more large corporations will follow in Link’s footsteps in styrofoam recycling, as this would help change the throw-away culture of the past and help build a city-wide styrofoam recycling programme to reduce negative environmental impacts and, ultimately, achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
Four important tips when recycling styrofoam:
Receive updates in Messenger
Receive updates in Messenger
This Statement is made by Link Asset Management Limited ("Link Asset Management") as manager of Link REIT and Link Properties Limited (collectively "Link", “we”, "our" or "us"), in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486) of the Laws of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ('the PDPO'). This Statement intends to notify you why your personal data is collected, how it will be used, to whom the personal data will be transferred and to whom data access requests are to be addressed.
We hold four broad categories of personal data, namely customers' and tenants' personal data, business associates' personal data, employment-related personal data, website and social media users' personal data.
From time to time, we may collect your personal data to provide our services to you and in an effort to improve your customer experience. You are not obliged to provide your personal data to us but if you do not, we may not be able to provide you with some of the information, materials, services and/or products of Link Asset Management and/or Link Properties Limited.
Provision of personal data (i.e. email address or similar personal data) to us is obligatory should you subscribe to “Channel 823” or any contents thereto.
If you are under the age of 18, you must ask your parent or guardian before providing any personal data to us.
The personal data you registered for subscribing to "Channel 823" (whether through our websites or through social media platforms) will be used for:
We would like to use your email address or social media messengers for sending you "Channel 823" information or part thereof from time to time by way of direct marketing.
If you object to our use of your personal data for the relevant purposes as listed above, you can, at any time without charge, inform us via the “unsubscribe” function available in the emails or social media messengers of “Channel 823” updates or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal data held by us will be kept confidential, but we may disclose/transfer such data to the following parties (whether within or outside the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) for the purposes set out in this Statement:
We strive at all times to ensure that your personal data will be protected against unauthorized or accidental access, processing, erasure or other use. We have implemented appropriate physical, electronic and managerial measures to safeguard and secure your personal data.
Your personal data will be kept in the office of Link Asset Management and/or Link Properties Limited or by the service providers engaged by Link Asset Management and/or Link Properties Limited and is accessible only to our authorized employees and service providers.
We will keep your personal data for a reasonable time to fulfill the purpose for which the data was collected or comply with the relevant rules, regulations and laws of Hong Kong. Personal data which is no longer required will be destroyed.
Under the PDPO. any individual has the right to request access to and correction of his or her personal data held by us. In accordance with the terms of the PDPO, Link Asset Management or Link Properties Limited has the right to charge a reasonable fee for the processing of request.
If you wish to access or correct your personal data in relations to "Channel 823" subscription held by us, please send your request to: email@example.com.
Please read the below terms if you provide your personal data for the use of our services in Mainland China.
Cross-border data transfer
Since "Channel 823" is published by Link Asset Management in Hong Kong, transfer of your personal data to Hong Kong is necessary for us to send you "Channel 823" information or part thereof. During such cross-border data transfer and storage, we are committed to protecting the security of your personal data. If you object to our cross-border transfer of your personal data, we may not be able to provide you with the services for the relevant purposes listed above.
Other than the rights to request access and correction, in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China, you will also have the rights to copy, supplement and deletion of your personal data held by us.
To Change the scope of consent
We respect your right to know and right of decision on the processing of your personal data. You can change the scope of your consent to our processing of your personal data at any time, however this might affect your use of our services. If you wish to access, copy, correct, supplement or delete your personal data in relations to "Channel 823" subscription held by us or to change the scope of your consent, please send your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In case of discrepancies between the English and Chinese versions of this Statement, the English version shall apply and prevail.