Hong Kong is working hard at upcycling

Posted on 31 March 2020.

Waste management is a huge challenge for the Chinese megacity. But the Crossroads Foundation has created a mobile app to encourage residents to donate used items and give them a second life.

Since its launch in 2017, the app has already given a second life to almost 21.5 metric tons of unwanted items.

"A new solution to an old problem" says the Crossroads Foundation – a Hong Kong based NGO – about its GoodCity project which launched in 2017 and is now commonly used by people living in the Chinese megacity.

The principle is simple: people in Hong Kong take photos of the things they don't use anymore for the mobile app or website. With one click, the NGO's volunteers review whether the object can be reused or not. If approved, a delivery person will pick it up from the donor's home.

400 or so local associations then look through the Crossroads Foundation catalogue to find clothes to give to the homeless, furniture to give to the less well-off, and so on. The result is a 90% faster way of processing and collecting goods for reuse.

Since it launched in 2017, the app has already given a second life to almost 21.5 metric tons of donations that would otherwise have become waste.


A question of survival

Waste management is particularly important in Hong Kong - more than in any other major urban area. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, it’s very short of space. It has already cycled through thirteen landfills, which are repurposed as sports fields and parks to green the city.

"If Hong Kong continues in this way, we will reach breaking point by 2020," said a city environmental protection department manager in an interview with the BBC. It is impossible to absorb the annual 10,733 metric tons of waste produced by Hong Kong in the shrinking landfill space.

Upcycling, which gives a second life to objects destined for the garbage, appears to be a critical social issue. However, it is doubtful that the few tons of waste avoided by the GoodCity application will be enough to solve the problem.