19 May 2019
Green Council chief Linda Ho (inset, left) and Baguio Green Group CEO (inset, right) are among those involved in the discussions and debate related to a ‘green bricks’ initiative. Photos: Baguio/HKEJ
Green Council chief Linda Ho (inset, left) and Baguio Green Group CEO (inset, right) are among those involved in the discussions and debate related to a ‘green bricks’ initiative. Photos: Baguio/HKEJ

Plan to turn waste glass into building material draws skepticism

The government has come up with a plan for using glass sand from recycled bottles to make “green bricks” that can be used for construction purposes, but many experts doubt if the initiative will succeed. 

To improve the recycling rate of glass bottles, which stood at only 8.5 percent and 9.5 percent in 2015 and 2016 respectively, a public tender was held last year to outsource the work of recycling such bottles.

The winning bidder for the five-year contract was Baguio Green Group (01397.HK), which began this month to collect glass bottles in Hong Kong Island (including outlying islands) and New Territories before cleaning and crushing them into small pieces, or glass sands.

A contract for Kowloon district has been canceled, but is expected to be awarded in the second quarter this year.

Under the five-year recycling goal set in the tender, the glass bottles to be recycled will amount to 9,400 metric tons in the first year, 25,000 metric tons in the second year and 31,500 tons a year from the third year to fifth year, the report said, citing Baguio’s CEO Phyllis Ng Yuk-Kwan.

According to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the produced glass sands will be first stashed and later used for land reclamation work as well as being supplied to local manufacturers who will turn the sands into green bricks.

But observers are skeptical about the success of the project, saying they have doubts if the materials made from the recycled glass will all get absorbed by the government.

EPD data suggests that the government will be able to absorb only about 6,000 metric tons of glass sands a year at most.

Professor Poon Chi-sun, a professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said he wonders how many of the government’s road surfacing projects in future would make use of green bricks.

He noted since it has been rare to see such bricks used in government surfacing projects, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to Poon, there are only two plants in Hong Kong that make green bricks and they definitely will not be capable of processing the glass sand that will surge in the coming years.

Linda Ho Wai-ping, chief executive of the Green Council, pointed out that green bricks made locally are not attractive to builders, given that the green bricks made in mainland China are more than 10 percent cheaper.

If the initiative is to succeed, the government must stipulate that public projects use only locally made green bricks, she said.

Baguio’s Ng, however, said she is confident that Baguio can achieve the recycling goal set by the EPD through multiple approaches and means.

The plans include contacting restaurants, bars, industrial and commercial buildings, as well as housing estates, to help them collect empty glass bottles, as well as holding activities in which people can exchange such bottles for small gifts.

The glass sands that Baguio produces can not only be sold to the Hong Kong government but also exported to other regions, such as Europe, Ng said, projecting gross margin of 15 to 20 percent on such sales.

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