People can make a difference by getting involved in annual cleaning of beaches

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 12:00am


I refer to the letters by Lawrence Brader ('Appalled by floating rubbish', September 8) and Ken Wake ('Get tough with marine litter louts', September 8).

While they paint an appropriately bleak picture of our marine environment, their sentiments are indicative of a general trend in Hong Kong of increased environmental awareness and caring. This is wonderful news for us as the organisers of the Hong Kong International Coastal Cleanup (HKICC) Challenge.

The HKICC, now in its 11th year, is a year-round effort aimed at raising awareness of the issue of marine debris. Each autumn, companies, schools and community members are invited to form teams and clean beaches. Volunteers gain a deeper understanding of the issue, while spending a fun and meaningful day outdoors. Anyone can sign up a team, it's free, and we provide the necessary education and materials. I invite your two concerned correspondents to check it out.

The focus of our 2011 campaign is plastic pollution. Plastic is a useful material, but as Mr Wake pointed out, the sheer quantity of disposable single-use plastic - like those ubiquitous bags and bottles - littering the ocean is truly staggering. With Hong Kong people disposing of an estimated 1,368,000 plastic bottles and 23 million plastic bags a day, the numbers quickly become incalculable and all that plastic is being thrown away. The problem is, there is no 'away'.

The government and industry are taking steps, like the plastic bag levy implemented in 2009 that has reportedly resulted in a 90 per cent decrease in plastic bags distributed by registered retailers. But more can always be done, especially since plastic bags continue to be the number-one debris item found on Hong Kong's beaches.

While government and industry action is crucial, it is the actions of each of us - as community members, consumers and leaders - that will inform their decisions and bring about real change. This means accepting a fundamental truth: our actions count. Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle - these aren't clich?s, they represent a smarter way of life. Carry your own shopping bag and water bottle. Choose less packaging. Vote with every dollar you spend and organise a beach clean-up.

This year's challenge takes place from September 17 to October 31. To participate, simply choose a beach and clean-up date, and register a team online (

Nissa Marion, project director, Ecovision Asia