Nearly 2 tons of marine litter collected in Hong Kong,
illustrating massive plastic pollution problem requiring urgent action
In 2014, WWF-Hong Kong launched the ground-breaking Coastal Watch project in conjunction with several strategic partner organizations. The aim of this two-year project is to help government bodies formulate long-term strategic management solutions to Hong Kong’s marine litter problem through collecting, analysing and tracing the sources of marine debris through a series of coastal clean-up actions and ecological surveys. Recent Coastal Watch investigations have revealed that the source of much of the marine litter found in Hong Kong is generated locally, while a proportion also drifts in from neighbouring regions.
Timed to coincide with the World Environment Day, the Coastal Watch team has organized the first ever cross-border clean-up activity, teaming up with passionate organizations from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. The opening ceremony for this regional clean-up was held this morning at Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun, one of Hong Kong’s worst marine litter black spots. Representatives from organizations based in Macau and mainland China, as well as the Hong Kong government’s Inter-departmental Working Group on Clean Shorelines, all participated in the ceremony and the clean-up that followed.
World Environmental Day encourages people around the world to pay attention to environmental issues and take proactive action to protect their local and regional environments. During the event, volunteers from the three regions simultaneously cleaned up their corresponding coastlines. Over 400 enthusiastic volunteers were recruited by the Coastal Watch team in Hong Kong, conducting clean-up actions at 16 coastal sites* around Hong Kong including Lung Kwu Tan, Cheung Chau, Sam Pak Wan and Shek O. Leading by guests and representatives from the three regions, 70 volunteers in Lung Kwu Tan used the marine litter they collected to make the place name they cleaned up. In Macau, several hundred volunteers cleaned up three local marine litter black spots; while in mainland China, 15 cities also participated in this first cross-border project. To create a synergy effect, participants in all the locations also used the marine litter they collected to spell out the names of their clean-up sites, showing the extent of the marine litter problem as well as their determination to combat it.
Quick statistics collected from Hong Kong showed that this cross-border clean-up collected 194 bags of marine litter, a total of 1.8 tonnes (equivalent to the weight of 13.5 fully-loaded 660kg garbage bins that commonly used in Hong Kong). In terms of the marine litter collected in Lung Kwu Tan, plastic items accounted for the highest proportion of all marine debris. For example, there were 791 plastic caps, 594 plastic plates and cups, 303 plastic straws and stirrers found. This clearly reflects a serious regional problem with the consumption and improper disposal of single-use plastic products in all three regions.
The accumulation of marine debris not only degrades coastal scenery, but also impacts both marine and human life. “In the past, crabs and hermit crabs inhabited Hac Sa Beach [in Macau]; we could even find Chinese white dolphins and jellyfish in the surrounding waters. But now, we seldom find any trace of them, only all sorts of marine litter – food packages, bottles and cans are commonly found on seashores” said Joe Chan, president of the Macau Green Student Union. “The variety and complexity of litter is growing proportionally with the rocketing advancements in technology, and the corresponding toxicity is also becoming increasingly deadly. We see hope every time we organize these clean-up actions, and we wish that more people can become aware of our ocean.”
Ms Min Zhang, Chairwoman of the Financial Committee for the Shenzhen Mangrove Wetlands Conservation Foundation said at the ceremony,”We organized a joint clean-up activity in mainland China last year. 18 coastal cities and a total of 31 NGOs took part in the event, cleaning up 30 tonnes of marine litter along 40 km of shorelines. This year, we enlarged the clean-up scale and are cooperating with green groups in Hong Kong and Macau, also located in the Pearl River Delta. We hope that the exchange of valuable experiences through this cross-border cooperation will influence more people to join efforts to protect the marine environment.”
“Recent research performed by the Education University of Hong Kong has shown that the Pearl River has a significant influence on the quantity and distribution of marine litter in the western Hong Kong, demonstrating that the marine litter problem needs to be solved through regional collaboration. We hope this cross-border action will encourage governments to establish more lines of communication in order to formulate concrete measures and objectives to solve the problem,” commented Patrick Yeung, WWF’s Coastal Watch project manager. “The marine litter problem cannot simply be solved through clean-up activities; we must research and pinpoint the root causes of the problem. We encourage everyone to reduce waste at source to prevent litter from entering the marine environment and destroying the marine ecosystem,” he concluded.