Recycling at Hong Kong’s EcoPark

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Straddling a small island, Hong Kong can ill afford to use its limited space for landfills. Yet its millions of residents, like affluent populations around the world, produce their fair share of garbage.

This is why its government pledged to improve the reduction and recovery of its municipal solid waste. EcoPark, in operation since 2007, is one of the waste management facilities Hong Kong created to meet this mandate.

At the site, a number of recycling firms co-exist side-by-side on 20 hectares of land. Among them, these firms recycle a variety of materials including cooking oils, wood, metals, electronics, plastics and batteries.

All of the waste material processed at EcoPark must be generated within Hong Kong. And because the park is conceived of as a recycling centre, only waste material can be used as feedstocks for waste-conversion and inputs for manufacturing.

EcoPark is a variation of what’s often called an eco-industrial park (EIP).  At most basic, an EIP usually involves an exchange between firms of their excess energy and materials. Waste from one firm becomes an input to another.

Hong Kong’s EcoPark lacks this exchange of materials and energy. However, its participants do share various other human and infrastructure resources, and together seek to improve their bottom line while lessening environmental impact.

They enjoy affordable and long-term use of the property and shared infrastructure lowers their capital investments. Significantly, the site offers marine access, giving its companies ready access to Asian and world market for their recycled materials.

The government created the park with two main objectives. First, it wanted to promote the local recycling industry. Hong Kong had always exported much of its recyclables, so creating local capacity would save costs. Second, the government hoped to spark what it calls a circular economy – one in which waste materials and energy are recovered and reused, as in many EIP.

The government appointed a property management firm, Serco Guardian JV, to oversee day-to-day operations. Serco has put in place a multidisciplinary management team to not only manage, but also promote the park and encourage its growth.

In 2011, EcoPark initiated Phase 2 of the project. With the completion of the second phase, eight new companies have joined the six original companies.