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GIVING BACK

Make your hongbao green - recycle the empty red packets

50 pieces of hongbao can make a roll of toilet paper, and 70 can produce an A4-sized carton; OCBC sends red packets collected in their bins to a recycling plant

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OCBC's recycling bins (above) are made of cardboard boxes that can be further recycled; the bank's red packets have key elements that are vital for a sustainable world - a leaf symbolising forestation, bird exemplifying quality air, and a fish representing clean water.

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OCBC's recycling bins are made of cardboard boxes that can be further recycled; the bank's red packets have key elements that are vital for a sustainable world - a leaf symbolising forestation, bird exemplifying quality air, and a fish representing clean water.

Singapore

HOW was your hongbao harvest this year? You probably "earned" a few hundred dollars and a cardboard box. That is if you recycled.

According to Andrew Tay, head of business development at Tay Paper Recycling, it takes approximately 50 pieces of red packets to make a roll of toilet paper, and 70 to produce an A4-sized carton.

The National Environment Agency's website says, in 2018, paper/cardboard wastage was more than one million tonnes, out of 7.7 million tonnes of solid waste generated. To put things in perspective, that is about 17 million trees that could be saved.

Hence, OCBC Bank is joining the fight to save the trees. This year, in the midst of all the festivities, the bank will set up recycling boxes at all its branches from Jan 28 to Feb 18. In addition, the recycling bins used to collect the red packets is made of cardboard boxes that can be further recycled.

Koh Ching Ching, head, Group Brand & Communications, OCBC Bank, said: "By protecting and using earth's precious resources correctly, we can help fight climate change. This is the driving message behind the design of OCBC's red packets for 2020 . . . Our red packets this year carry meaningful environmental messages to inspire more people to go green . . . and feature key elements that are vital for a sustainable world - the leaf symbolising forestation, the fish representing clean waters; and the bird exemplifying quality air."

She added: "The red packets themselves are printed on environmentally friendly paper; we have also done away with the usual single-use plastic holders for red packets, opting for ones made from environmentally friendly paper.

"We are encouraging our customers to recycle their red packets . . . Customers can drop both used and excess red packets - not just OCBC ones - into the recycling boxes. These red packets and the recycling boxes will be sent to a recycling plant to be pulped and subsequently used to make cardboard boxes."

This is one of the bank's long-term initiative, and work on the red packets' design usually starts as early as the second quarter of the year.

Focus on carbon emissions

"For CNY 2020, we decided to work on an environmentally sustainability theme for our red packets and use FSC-certified paper .. . This initiative is part of OCBC's ongoing efforts to help fight climate change - focusing on carbon emissions," said Ms Koh.

When asked about the challenges involved in red packet recycling, Mr Tay said that red packets are difficult to recycle due to the amount of ink and gold stamping involved.

The company overcame this issue by "diluting" the red packets with other waste papers before packing them for recycling.

He added: "Hence, I think it is fantastic that big corporations such as OCBC Bank are placing emphasis on recycling. OCBC's approach is also very holistic, down to the design of collection bins which is made recyclable."

Adrian Tan, 37, founder of a tuition centre, said: "This is a good initiative . . . children are receiving the red packets so it is good to reach out to them to let them know the importance of recycling. We need to educate kids from young. There is an OCBC branch downstairs from the centre, and I intend to organise an initiative with the kids . . . for our next lesson, we will consolidate the red packets and drop them off together."

Mr Tan added that while the students do learn about environmental topics and the importance of saving the earth in school, it is always better to have such an initiative that is meaningful so that the children can learn from actual participation rather than just from the textbooks.

Mr Tay said: "More of such initiatives (are needed) to spark conversations among people which will in turn drive behaviour towards environmental sustainability where recycling is just a part of the bigger picture. It does not matter if it is hongbao, a plastic bottle or a reusable cup - what is more important is the message behind. And the message is: We only have one earth to live on, we are all on the same boat - and the boat is showing signs of problems. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?"

Combat climate change

Recycling red packets is the latest of several other initiatives that the bank has undertaken to combat climate change. These include setting up the OCBC Arboretum at the Singapore Botanic Gardens that can absorb and store carbon dioxide; and putting a stop to offering bottled water at all Singapore branches since 2017.

The bank also operates a low-emissions Data Centre which holds the BCA-IMDA Green Mark Platinum Award. The data centre emits 9.6 million kg less carbon dioxide per year.

On the lending side, OCBC has funded numerous green projects and ended 2019 atop two sustainable finance league tables.

  • This article is part of a series on climate change initiatives, supported by OCBC Bank