Monday, 17 April 2017

Pitch in for Cleaner Seas

Lots of garbage gets washed up  -- imagine how much is in the sea!
One of my friends, YTSL regularly joins a group to do beach clean-ups around Hong Kong. She is dismayed to find each time there is the same amount of garbage or even more sometimes. But she hopes that each time she pitches in she is doing her small but significant part in improving the environment.

Part of the problem is old school thinking by people who don't seem interested in trying to make the environment better for the next generation and beyond.

Case in point are the styrofoam boxes used by fishermen to transport their catches to wholesale markets.

WWF-Hong Kong's corrugated plastic boxes
"We see many of these boxes floating along the coastline and in places like Aberdeen typhoon shelter, which may have been dumped or blown into the water," says WWF-Hong Kong's project manager for marine affairs, Patrick Yeung Chung-wing.

"This has a huge impact on the environment as foam is very brittle and light, making it very hard to clean up once it's in the sea."

Not only do they pollute the water, but also the fish mistake the small white bits as food. These non-digestible things make the fish think it's full, but really it's not.

About a year ago, some scientists did biopsies of local fish and found lots of plastic and styrofoam in their stomachs. How gross is that!

According to a 2015 report compiled by the Environmental Protection Department, foam plastic makes up for one-fifth of marine refuse.

Marine life may mistaken floating plastic as food
WWF-Hong Kong is now launching a trial scheme with local fisheries representatives to use sturdy crates made from cheap, lightweight corrugated plastic.

What was the reaction? One would have thought the fishing industry would welcome the chance to improve the environment.

Instead Hong Kong Fishermen Consortium chairman Cheung Siu-keung says they would only consider the corrugated plastic crates if they were cheap, functional and durable.

"The most important consideration will be the ability to maintain the temperature of its contents," he said. "Reliable supply will also be important."

Yeung also hopes the fishermen will consider deploying special trawler nets to scoop up floating refuse more efficiently, and even bring back refuse in their nets back to shore instead of dumping them into the sea.

"Rubbish should be cleaned up in the sea and sorted onshore and given a new product life. In Hong Kong, there are no groups or companies doing this," he says.

We all need to pitch in to make the harbour cleaner. And it seems just trying to get the right attitude from stakeholders is the biggest challenge of all...

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