Let’s be honest – who really wants to talk about trash? We put it into bags, carefully place it outside our homes on the allocated day and, for most of us, that’s where it ends.
But for one lady that’s where it starts. Ms. April Lai lives in Hong Kong, where the seven million inhabitants produce a staggering 13,817 tons of garbage each day. Of the 6 million produced each year, barely any goes to recycling.
To give you an idea, in 2006 about 3,000 tons of glass waste was recovered, which came to about 2% of the glass waste generated in Hong Kong that year.
Whilst the government is slowly starting to put schemes into place to deal with this problem, Ms. Lai is spending her Thursdays and Saturdays sifting through rubbish at trash collection points in the city, gathering up all the glass she can find. With a tiny team of part-time drivers and volunteers, her nongovernmental organization, Green Glass Green, manages to deliver about two to three tons of glass to Tiostone Environmental each visit.
Founded in 2005, Tiostone’s factory is dedicated to transforming trash into paving stones and an essential component of those bricks is the glass Ms. Lai is tirelessly working to supply.
Tiostone Environmental by Bettina Wassener/The International Herald Tribune January 2012
Indeed, it is this very relationship between Green Glass Green and Tiostone that is rallying the local residents to take part in the city clean-up. Whilst Ms. Lai is fighting through endless red tape to obtain permission to place glass collection bins in public locations, residents around the city can be seen dropping off their bundles of glass empties for her to dispose of.
“When people show their support, it is so encouraging”, she says. Understandably so.
It no doubt seems Green Glass Green and Tiostone putting everything they have in the fight to keep the city clean. When programs to collect glass are met with indifference, such as the one set up by the government and Hong Kong hotel association in 2008 to retrieve glass waste from hotels, it is no doubt a delight to see people arriving with their empty jars and bottles.
Launch of the Glass Container Recycling ProgramNovember 2008
Certainly, the road ahead will not be an easy one for Ms. Lai and the founders of Tiostone. If waste loads continue to increase, an additional 400 hectares of land to develop new landfill sites to meet Hong Kong’s waste disposal needs up to 2030 (read more). As Mr. Dixon Chan, Director of Tiostone, states, “Ms. Lai is doing a great job… but we need 1,000 Aprils”.
Fortunately, the outlook may not be as bleak as it seems:
“The fact that Green Glass Green, which began its collections 18 months ago, receives some government financing shows that the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department is starting to take glass recycling seriously,” Ms. Lai said.
There is hope yet. Thanks to Ms. Lai.
Visit Ms. Lai at GreenGlassGreen