JOINT BLOG POST
On Earth Day, 22 April 2021, Encompass HK, Civic Exchange and SUSTAINHK discussed imperative issues about climate change. In particular, the speakers shed lights to the lives of waste pickers in Hong Kong, celebrating their contributions to Hong Kong’s recycling.
According to the 2019 SDG progress report, the regions of East and North-East Asia including Hong Kong are not meeting the sustainability goals, specifically relating to responsible consumption and production. The severity of the situation can be found in the waste management issues in Hong Kong. A total of 11,428 tons of solid waste is sent to landfills every day and the current recycling rate is only at 30%.
Hong Kong, one of the most developed cities in the world has a big role to play in mitigating climate change and restoring the earth. Hard-to-decarbonize sectors account for a very small share of the city’s economy. Aligning with China’s recent net zero target, it is appropriate for Hong Kong to target net zero carbon emission by 2050. Every day of delay makes the necessary emissions cut steeper and more difficult.
“However, this is not a doom-and-gloom situation,” said Fiona Lau, Program Manager at Civic Exchange and co-organizer of the Earth Day webinar. “If we take actions now, by working with policymakers to decarbonize the power sector, improve building efficiency, and enhance mobility of our city, Hong Kong can look forward to a green and more liveable future.”
“Only by restoring our Earth can we really tackle global warming and the alarming statistics that come with it,” said Benita Chick, Founder of Encompass HK and co-organizer of the webinar, “Our ecosystem is very resilient as we can observe small changes from the pandemic which reduced carbon emissions and resulted in bluer skies in Hong Kong.”
We can find some comfort in knowing that restoration projects have started in Hong Kong. The Nature Conservatory has been a leader in restoring the oyster reefs, which have served as a natural defense against flooding caused by climate change. Also, the government has funded river revitalization projects around Hong Kong such as the Kai Tak river, Hong Kong’s first green corridor. Not only are they vital flooding defense mechanisms, they also enhance biodiversity even at the heart of the city. Although often behind the scene, these restoration projects are key to Hong Kong’s climate resilience.
SUSTAINHK team, also co-organizer of the webinar further shared insights from a design thinking workshop conducted with waste pickers, unsung heroes of Hong Kong in mind. SUSTAINHK examined problems associated with the recycling system in Hong Kong. Not only are waste pickers essential part of Hong Kong’s informal recycling system, contributing to 20% of paper recycling they are also often not recognized as essential workers by our society even though they practically do us a public service of scavenging.
The team also observed discrepancies and the lack of synergy between stakeholders involved in the recycling ecosystem. The workshop participated by key stakeholders in the recycling industry aimed to invoke conversation with exercises such as design thinking and empathy mapping.
Earth Day is about all of us. The talk ended on ways to protect the planet and how the audience can contribute on an individual-basis. Simple day-to-day tasks like taking public transport more often, taking less long-haul flights, recycling at Green @ Community, shopping wisely, and continuing to educate ourselves and others about ways to protect our planet.
More about the speakers
Encompass HK is a social enterprise that advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through training and consultancy services to educate and support organisations to be more diversified and inclusive. The enterprise serves the community by contributing to social causes and Non-Governmental Organisations, as well as working with them through collaborative models. Encompass HK’s clients include The University of Hong Kong, SWIRE Properties, Jardines, Manulife, ANZ Bank, Schroders, Morgan Stanley, Freshfields, KPMG, the Capital Group, Verizon Media and others.
Powered by the Hong Kong hub of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, SUSTAINHK is a platform focusing on industry-level conversations and exchanges, bringing together change makers, influencers and the public to inspire awareness, dialogues, and action on environmental sustainability. Some events that SUSTAINHK conducted include Climate Talks, Green Innovation Talks, U.N. Global Goals Jam Hong Kong, and the Food and Fashion Waste double panel.