A red-letter day for the recycling movement: Ever wondered what happens to unused red packets?

Red packets at Tay Paper Recycling in Gul Avenue. DBS says it has collected nearly 3 tonnes of them, and they will be turned into paper pulp and processed into recycled paper rolls or used to create new paper products.
Red packets at Tay Paper Recycling in Gul Avenue. DBS says it has collected nearly 3 tonnes of them, and they will be turned into paper pulp and processed into recycled paper rolls or used to create new paper products.PHOTO: DBS

Ever wondered what happens to unused red packets?

Rather than being chucked into drawers or ending up at the incineration plant, they could be given a new lease of life in an initiative by Singapore's largest bank.

Since it started its recycling effort last month, DBS Bank says it has collected close to 3 tonnes of red packets. They will be sorted, packed and sent to paper mills to be turned into paper pulp. This will then be processed into recycled paper rolls or sheets, or combined with other raw materials to create new paper products.

Mr Jeremy Soo, managing director and head of consumer banking group (Singapore) at DBS, said: "We've been looking for ways to recycle and reduce waste within our organisation and to make it easier for our customers and the public to do so as well.

"Our customers have also become more environmentally conscious over the years and have been asking for ways to recycle their used or excess red packets after Chinese New Year."

Although DBS raised its hongbao recycling idea with many paper recycling companies, most turned them down until Tay Paper Recycling said yes.

The bank's other sustainability efforts have been gaining ground too:

• Its "Recycle more, Waste less" eco-movement to encourage Singaporeans to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics has seen more than 50,000 people pledging to do so, while more than 1,300 of its employees have pledged through an ongoing campaign to reduce their carbon footprint this year.

• The group has reduced its use and purchase of disposable plastic water bottles across DBS/POSB bank branches and offices in Singapore, saving some 7.3 tonnes of plastic waste every year. For this Chinese New Year, it said it avoided 220kg in plastic waste just by doing away with plastic wrapping for red packets.

• Today, 40 per cent of DBS' total energy consumption in Singapore comes from renewable sources, and it has pledged to power all local operations using renewable energy by 2030.

A total of 64 Ang Bao Recycling Bins for used red packets and DBS QR Ang Baos will be available at all DBS/POSB branches across Singapore till April 18 during branch operating hours. Bins at selected branches will be accessible 24 hours daily.

Eleven-year-old Daniel Lui said: "Instead of throwing away hongbao and letting the paper go to waste, I want to play my part in reducing deforestation by recycling.

"I wish to protect this earth in whatever way I can, like taking part in this recycling drive which I feel helps Singapore in our journey to become a zero-waste nation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'A red-letter day for the recycling movement'. Print Edition | Subscribe