Founded in 2009, Read-Cycling is a charity and non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to collecting used books from book donors in Hong Kong, via donation counters. It then distributes the books back to the community via charity sales, re-donation or festivals/carnivals dedicated to promoting the joy of reading.
To tackle Hong Kong society’s wastefulness, the linear take-make-dispose model of consumption must transition to a more circular approach. A circular economy mandates that products be kept in use for as long as possible through processes of recycling, reuse and repair. In addition to wastefulness, Hong Kong’s literacy levels appear to be declining, having slipped behind Russia and Singapore, according to a 2017 international literacy study (PIRLS 2017). There are many looking for books and publications for knowledge building and leisure reading, while retailers and exhibitors at the annual Hong Kong Book Fair were found to throw away hundreds of brand new, unsold books each year.
Read-Cycling caters to students and educators who are also environmentally conscious, by combining education with recycling. The goal is to promote the joy of reading through an environmentally friendly way by redistributing used books. Its flagship project is the annual “Bring A Book & Share” readers’ carnivals, where the general public can donate and browse books that are sold at about 30% of the original price. Already in its ninth incarnation, organisers of the readers’ carnivals collect used books through collection boxes and stalls, within a set period of time each year in the months before the main event. Money raised at the readers’ carnivals goes towards promoting and developing a reading culture in Hong Kong, through thought-provoking community and school events. Read-Cycling also established the PPO Library as part of its storage warehouse, which hosts periodic, open book sales whenever its storage facilities are filled. Schools and educational institutions are invited to visit the library directly to choose an unlimited number of books for free.
Since 2009, Read-Cycling has received over 175,000 used books and re-channelled over 131,000 to new homes, thereby saving 1,310 trees. In 2019, Read-Cycling collected more than 23,000 books and donated or sold more than 21,000 books. It regularly organises free books schemes for NGOs and schools, used book sales at school campuses and corporate offices, and cultural and author sharing sessions to cultivate the habit of reading. It has also trialled two upcycling workshops that combined art with recycling, by turning wooden wine boxes into mobile bookshelves and turning used books into flower pots.
"Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016 International Report (Hong Kong Section)." The University of Hong Kong Media Website, 6 December 2017. https://hku.hk/press/press-releases/detail/17209.html. Press release. Accessed 29 October 2020.