01 Aug 2019

The Purpose Business (TPB) and the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) have been working together to tackle Hong Kong’s plastic waste.  In 2019, TPB was proud to join, for the first time, HKRU’s #Green7s campaign. TPB and HKRU were hard at work in the run up, and behind the scenes, at the iconic Hong Kong Rugby Sevens 2019, making sure the event reached new heights in its efforts to maintain its status as a “Green Outdoor Event” and build on the success of its prestigious Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence in 2019. After kicking off #plasticfreejuly together, TPB  asks HKRU’s Robbie McRobbie how the plans for tackling waste in 2019 are going.


TPB: what sparked your interest in sustainability?


RMcR: I’ve been playing rugby since I was 9 years old, so that is a lot of time outdoors. I think being outdoors automatically helps you appreciate the natural environment a lot more. When I moved to Hong Kong in 1990s I became very conscious of the impact that a lot of people living and working so closely together can have, and the waste situation in HK has become more conspicuous over time.  


TPB: do you think Hong Kong is particularly wasteful?


RMcR: No, people in Hong Kong are keen to improve their environment. The uniqueness of this place, housing so many people over a small parcel of land, means Hong Kongers appreciate the need to protect what space they have, to keep it clean and green. This balance makes it more difficult to tackle waste but also more important and there is a willingness to do so here. I think Hong Kong people support better waste management from service providers and that’s going to drive a slow but steady change towards waste reduction.


TPB: Is that what informed the creation of the Green 7s campaign?


RMcR: It’s well known that large events are one of the biggest contributors to single-use plastic waste. For safety and hygiene reasons, plastic is the best means of serving food or drinks at these events. Sporting events are fun, people are there to have a good time so they’re likely to have a few drinks and consume food on-site. Also, because its outdoors a lot of water and other drinks are being served. This produces a large amount of waste in the form of single-use plastics, especially single use plastic cups.  In recognising that we, as HKRU, are in a position to tackle some of this waste, in December 2018, the board took a decision that the strategic themes for the next four years will be “Engagement, Retention, Performance, Sustainability, ” and we have signed up to the United Nations Sports for Action Climate Framework. On an implementation level, we took aim at waste at the #Rugby7s and that’s how the Green 7s was born. As we have a public platform, and interact with many large corporates, it’s important for the Rugby 7s to take the lead in initiatives like this. The Green 7s campaign shows what can be done on a large-scale, which hopefully encourages other outdoor events to adopt similar strategies and, importantly, teaches people that it can certainly be done on a small, day-to-day scale as well.


TPB: Can you talk to us through that, what was Green 7s able to do in 2019?


RMcR: This year marks the 6th consecutive year we have run the Green 7s campaign, each year we try to get a little bit more ambitious. We’ve long been focused on recycling at Rugby 7s but this year we went one step further with the introduction of reusable cups. This meant that spectators were able to pay a HK$10 deposit for a reusable cup that was cleaned and returned to circulation after each use – instead of thrown away.  Over the course of the three-day event, 130,000 reusable cups were in circulation and these were washed 180,000 times – that is 180,000 cups that weren’t thrown out after a single use! The Green 7s didn’t end there, we also banned plastic straws and partnered with Food Angel to redistribute half a tonne of food after the event.


TPB: And what are the plans going forward?


RMcR: It’s important to us that these initiatives aren’t limited to the three days of Rugby 7s every year. We are rolling out the reusable cups at our other rugby events, they have already been used at the Global Rapid Rugby games. Also, these cups are available for hire by other events so that they, too, can reduce their reliance on single-sue plastic cups. This is the reason we consciously chose to keep the cups unbranded so that they could be used all over town! We are also working closely with government, the LCSD and EPD, to improve availability of water at events, so cups can be refilled, and improve the collection of recycling materials. The roll-out of the reusable cups this year was a pilot project but, given its success, we aim to introduce it again in 2020. Beyond the Sevens, we have also banned water bottles at Kings Park  and provided an additional free water fountain at Tin Shui Wai


TPB: This is fantastic news and a great achievement. TPB was proud to be part of the campaign this year and look forward to seeing the Green Sevens campaign grow.


RMcR: Yes, we hope it gets bigger every year. As for this year, TPB played a central role in the success of Green 7s. It was really helpful in preparing a Waste Management Plan, recruiting volunteers, reaching out to stakeholders and, most importantly, in drafting our post-event report that allowed us to see both the successes of the campaign and, critically, what can be improved on in future.


This #plasticfreejuly TPB hopes you take a leaf out of the HKRU playbook and realise that if large events, such as the Rugby 7s, can make a change, so can you! Aside from making your own, individual, choices to reuse and avoid single use plastics, HKRU has shown that when corporates and consumers cooperate, they get results! TPB is here to help other Asian businesses be a force for good – for society, the environment and their bottom line.