Understand the e-waste contribution and people’s recycling behaviour in Hong Kong through a territory-wide recycling programme for USB cables

As the USB cables are made of plastics and metals, it would be a waste of resources if they were sent to the landfill directly.

by Stacey C. Y. Li, Catherine W. C. Chan, Janet K. Y. Chan *


Mobile phones have become one of the most indispensable items of our daily life. People normally have the practice of reselling their old phones or other electronic devices because of their high value. However, the USB cables normally come with these gadgets are always forgotten. As the USB cables are made of plastics and metals, it would be a waste of resources if they were sent to the landfill directly. There is a lack of data and studies regarding the amount of USB cable waste, and people’s handling and disposing habits of them in Hong Kong. This action-cum-research project, namely "Off-lines”, therefore aims to raise people’s awareness on e-waste beginning with a type of waste that everyone has, that is USB cable, and to fill in the research gap on people’s awareness and knowledge on this kind of e-waste. One hundred and fifty collection points were set up all over Hong Kong by this project and successfully collected over 7,700 unwanted cables from the public. This project also conducted a questionnaire survey from February 2022 to May 2022 and received 457 valid responses from the public. The results of the questionnaires show that nearly 70% of respondents do not know USB cables can be recycled. The three major reasons for not recycling USB cable are: 1) Not knowing any collection points (71%); 2) Lack of knowledge on USB cable recycling (67%); and 3) Inconvenient and insufficient collection points (67%). Upcycling workshops were also organised not only to provide a chance for the participants to have hands-on experience on making knots with USB cables, but also to inspire them to think out of the box and give any unwanted item a second life. Feedback from the public and also the business sector found the project very meaningful and successfully heightened the public awareness on e-waste issues. Collaboration with green groups and other partnering organisations should be extended to provide wider and immersive networks for collecting unwanted USB cables or other cables.
Keywords: E-waste, USB cable, Public participation, Action research, Off-lines

published: Korea Society of Waste Management, 11|2022
Keywords: Electronic Waste, China