HK Recycles

HK Recycles

Hong Kong S.A.R., ChinaTai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong S.A.R., China
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

HK Recycles is a social enterprise dedicated to solving Hong Kong's waste problem. Our goal is to make Hong Kong into a greener city and foster a social conscience by recycling more than 1,000,000 lbs of sorted waste, all while employing people from marginalized backgrounds.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Hong Kong is expected to run out of landfill space by 2018 yet existing recycling options are limited. Government recycling programs have been plagued by scandal, with many reports of collected recyclables ending up with the rest of the trash. Existing programs are also limited in scope, collecting mainly paper, metal and plastic; most people are unable to recycle glass, electronics, and many other materials that are recycled abroad.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

HK Recycles assists both residential and corporate customers to recycle as much of their waste as possible. We offer a full-service recycling pick-up service to enable people to recycle at their home or office, in a city with one of the lowest residential recycling rates in the world. Our service is the most convenient way to recycle in Hong Kong, and is also the most accountable: we work with local companies to recycle everything that we collect. We are focused on fostering a recycling culture and developing the environmental dialogue in Hong Kong.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Every piece of recyclable waste that we collect is one less piece of trash that ends up in the landfill. However, to collect all that waste we rely on our recycling collectors and that's where Ka Sing comes in. Ka Sing is a young man who is our main recycling collector in charge of going to households or offices to pick up their recyclables every week. He's been a great worker but had issues finding employment elsewhere since he is autistic. We found him through our work with a local charity named Caritas, and have since trained other people with marginalized backgrounds including single mothers, ex-cons, and others with mental disabilities. We pay above-market wages and they have become an essential part of our mission to recycle in HK.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

HK Recycles is the only company in Hong Kong that collects all four main recyclable types (paper, plastic, metal, and glass) with a focus on genuinely recycling everything we collect. The government has been pushing recycling since 2005 with both public bins and recycling bins available for housing estates. However, the actual collection of recyclables from those bins have been contracted out to private waste companies that also collect trash. This means there is no incentive for those companies to actually sort and recycle waste, with most recyclables ending up with other trash.
About You
Organization:
HK Recycles
About You
First Name

Michael

Last Name

Shum

About Your Project
Organization Name

HK Recycles

Organization Country

, KSS, Tai Kok Tsui

Country where this project is creating social impact

, HCW

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

HK Recycles started out with two very basic thoughts: "I can't believe there's no recycling in Hong Kong!", and "With the growing divide between the rich and the poor, there has to be a way to help those being left behind in Hong Kong". Neither myself or my co-founder had ever lived in a building that offered recycling, and government bins were always full of trash. Coming from North America, we certainly had the desire to recycle but no way of doing it. Through our work with local charities we were also aware of a large marginalized population that was suffering despite living in one of the most wealthy cities in the world. By creating HK Recycles we aimed to create a sustainable way to tackle both issues at once.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Waste.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

We focused on Hong Kong island for now to ensure customers were geographically centralized to make collections as efficient as possible. We service residential customers in a wide range of buildings, from historical walk-up buildings to luxury developments. We also cater to a wide range of businesses, including schools, restaurants, offices, and serviced apartments. Our marketing has mostly been through word-of-mouth and social media, with subscribers more than happy to spread the word.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

We started last year with a pilot program of 40 households, and have cautiously expanded to almost 300 customers being served on a weekly basis now. Our goal is to hit 1000 subscribers by the second half of next year while engaging property managers to reach people on a larger scale. To increase awareness we have given presentations and talks at corporate events, schools, and local green events. We have also been a recycling sponsor at many local events including school fairs, action races, and at music festivals. We have already recycled over 50,000 lbs to date and keep close records of everything we collect, with a target of recycling 1 million lbs in the future.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

Currently we service individual homes and companies on Hong Kong island. We aim to expand geographically, by opening in the rest of Hong Kong. We also expect to move towards larger customers: from individual residential units to dealing with property managers, or from individual businesses to whole offices. We are connected to the growing green movement in Hong Kong, and have also been in talks with the government to reach a larger audience of people. We need capital to finance expansion: hiring more workers, purchasing or hiring a greater fleet of vans/trucks, and investing in targeted marketing to key markets.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

We charge a small fee to all our customers who subscribe to our recycling program. The fee is affordable to most of our target customers by starting at just $25 HKD ($3.20 USD) a pick-up for residential subscribers, with corporate customers starting at just $100 HKD ($12.90). By scaling up with more customer density, we can save costs and reduce prices while increasing volume. Our business model is already very near to breaking even.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

HK Recycles is our first start-up, but my co-founder and I have business experience from university and from our corporate jobs. Since we started the company over a year ago, we have learned a lot and with almost 300 customers and a steady revenue stream, we are convinced the model works. We also bring recycling into the 21st century with web-based subscription and payment, e-mail reminders, and marketing focused on social media.