The grunt of a chainsaw fills the air as a dead longan tree is felled under the watchful eye of Ricci Wong, founder of a Hong Kong nonprofit organization to turn tree waste into furniture and other household products.
Farmers and arborists working with private companies or government departments call on the group to collect the wood whenever they detect fallen or dying trees that need to be
Wong established HK Timberbank after Typhoon Mangkhut in September 2018, an intense storm that uprooted tens of thousands of trees in the territory, when he saw that what was being sent to the landfill was usable.
“Fresh, clean and healthy wood is also thrown away due to construction or after windstorms. Most of the wood was much more usable than we imagined, ”he said.
HK Timberbank collected more than 300 tons of trees in Hong Kong for recycling last year, most of which would have otherwise been dumped in landfills due to rot or insect infestation.
Wong and his partners store the wood at an industrial site in the city’s New Territories, where they have an inventory of more than 80 species of trees to use as raw materials for furniture, cutting boards, clocks, coasters and art.
Each piece of furniture takes three to four months to make, Wong said, from drying the wood to designing and manufacturing the items with professional woodworking tools.
During a recent display, a customer said she was delighted with her new coffee table.
“It is not too complicated or elaborate in a sophisticated way,” said Sharon Ho. “They create conventional furniture in the simplest way.”
HK Timberbank expects to expand its operation in the coming years, eventually reducing the city’s dependence on imported lumber.
Hong Kong sends more than 380 tons of wood and rattan to municipal landfills every day, according to government figures.
“We think we are doing something significant so we have to continue and we will not stop until we see results,” Wong said.