Ahead of Buy Nothing Day, Greenpeace has released a study which shows that Hongkongers send 110,000 tonnes of textiles to landfills every year, meaning that on average they throw out around 1,400 t-shirts every minute.

Over the past ten years, the study reveals, the amount of clothes being thrown out has not increased, but the recycling rate has been falling continuously coming in at only four percent last year, Ming Pao reports. This was lower than the recycling rates of Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom, which were at 11 percent, 15 percent and 16 percent respectively. Leung Pui-lun, Chairman of the Hong Kong General Association of Recycling Business, said that this was because the market for old clothes has shrunk, with the mainland banning imports, and Africa and Southeast Asian countries seeing a decrease in demand.

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Every Hongkonger threw out close to 15kg of old clothes last year – the equivalent of 102 t-shirts – Greenpeace project manager Bonny Tang said. She also said that the government does not have a systematic way of coming up with statistics for clothes wastage and that there is no comprehensive recycling plan. It will take 200 years to break down clothes in landfills, she said.

The group said that the public needs to address the overspending problems and to be more aware of whether the clothes they purchase were produced in an environmentally-friendly way. Mok Ho-kwong, the Lecture Educator Director of Natural Network, who has not bought any clothes in ten years, said that Hongkongers should think twice before purchasing, and that one’s image was not built upon what they wear.

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Greenpeace also said that the government should learn from the UK and increase the number of recycling bins. The Environmental Protection Department said that a district-wide old clothes recycling policy run by NGOs has been in place since 2006, but the Department did not report back on its effectiveness or how it plans to tackle the low recycling rate issue.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.