Hong Kong Faces Marine Crisis as Coastline Is Inundated by Massive Amount of Plastic Waste

Hong Kong has recently been marred by a torrent of plastic and solid waste that turned the coastal waters into a virtual cesspool, with beaches caked in layers of trash, sadly, seemingly going unnoticed by many beach goers and overwhelming for the weekend government clean-up teams.

The vast majority of this trash is not coming from Hong Kong's beachgoers, themselves, as the waste is mainly household, medical and commercial waste.

Judging from the color of some of the bags and material, it appears that the trash has been in the water for many days.

It is possible that the waste comes from both regional sources, and also some of the legal waste transfer stations which are poorly designed for containment, the heavy summer rains, and the amount of trash that Hong Kong creates on a per capita basis, which is one of the highest in the world.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"614169","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"960","style":"width: 600px; height: 450px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"1280"}}]]

Plastic trash has clogged the coastal areas around Hong Kong (image: Ocean Recovery Alliance)

Social media dialogue has suggested that the Hong Kong government should take emergency cleanup actions, similar to that in the case of an oil spill with booms, nets and recovery vessels, as in fact, much of this material is petroleum derived plastic.

It should also undertake urgent and broad investigations as to where this volume of trash is coming from, be that from Hong Kong itself, or from neighboring sources.

The trash event, which is impacting much of Hong Kong waters, is unifying the community and local NGO groups, as disturbing images are being shared around the world, with many in disbelief that a developed city like Hong Kong could be hit with such an inundation of marine litter. 

Long term residents claim that this is the worst they have seen the waters and beaches in the past two decades.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"614170","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1334","style":"width: 600px; height: 1067px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"750"}}]]

Screenshot of Global Alert app, which allow people to see the state of plastic marine trash in their location. (image: Ocean Recovery Alliance)

“I grew up in Hong Kong and we swam at Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay almost every weekend during the summer," said Nick Shearman and long-term resident. "No one talked about rubbish on the beach, and no one talked about clean-ups, or certainly not the need to volunteer on a weekend to pick up other people’s trash. This summer Hong Kong has seen the worse trash impact in the water that we can remember."

Marine litter impacts the health and wellbeing of the community, as well as negatively affecting the many water-based recreational activities in the territory. The trash build-up conveys a negative the image of the city, while creating untold implications on the ecosystem and seafood culture that Hong Kong is known for.

Currently, public beaches are cleaned by government departments, but they are not set up to handle the volumes of waste which are now circulating in the waters offshore, and therefore directly impacting the swimming areas for tourists and the community.

There are additionally hundreds of kilometers rocky shorelines, mangroves and beaches which are now choking in trash, which are not cleaned up by the government.


The Massive, Tragic Trashing of Our Oceans: Is There Still Time to Do Something About It?

Incredible Infographic Shows How We Have Ruined Our Oceans — and Ourselves as a Result

If Recycling Doesn't Actually Help the Planet, Then What Should We Do?

6 Extraordinary Art Projects Use Plastic Trash to Highlight the Crisis Facing the World's Oceans (Video)

The 3 Most Environmentally Damaging Habits You Might Be Able to Change

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.