Empowering Hong Kong's underprivileged through recycling; a partnership with V Cycle

A culture shock experienced by many new comers to Hong Kong is the sight of women pensioners pushing trolleys of cardboard on the street. Locally known as ‘Cardboard Grannies’, these women earn HKD 50 a day. It’s quite astonishing that 23% of the city’s population would have fallen below the official poverty line without government assistance. This does not compare favourably with the UK (18%), the US (13%) and Australia (13.6%). 


Without a proper non-means tested state retirement scheme in the city, many elderly women are forced to work long hours for meagre pay. The work is also labour intensive with many living a life of solitude. Over 70% of cardboard grannies live alone.

One organisation looking to improve the lives of these elderly workers is V Cycle. Founded in 2017 by Eric Swinton, V Cycle, short for ‘Virtuous Cycle’, is a social enterprise that employs elderly workers to sort plastic waste. Unbelievably, HK does not have an automated recycling sorting facility, meaning everything must be done by hand.

Having initially set a target to collect 10 Tonnes of plastic waste in 2020, V Cycle is now aiming to collect 10 tonnes of 10 Tonne of mixed plastic recyclables every month by December 2022. 8 to 10 cardboard grannies will be employed to sort plastic waste and dismantle e-waste. Not only does this provide them with better pay but allows them to be part of a community project and an increased sense of wellbeing.

Island Life is delighted to announce that, as part of our social impact, we will be donating 5% of our sales to V Cycle. The funds provided will help V Cycle achieve their employment target as well as  help with rental, equipment purchases, trucking and day to day operations. 

Eric and his team are at the forefront of tackling HK’s waste problem and the compassion with which they operate is greatly admired. We are proud to be involved with them. 

Island Life Hong Kong