12,000 beach volunteers clean up at awards

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am


Honours were given to some 12,000 Hongkongers who hit the city's beaches over the last month and a half - not to soak up the sun, but to scoop up rubbish.

Volunteers have cleared 172 kilometres of shoreline of 47,942kg of litter - the biggest haul in the 11-year history of the Hong Kong International Coastal Clean-up Challenge.

Typhoon Nesat whirled masses of debris ashore in September and people came out in force to help. The cleanup event saw its volunteer numbers and the volume of trash collected increase by over a third compared to last year.

The green initiative was part of a worldwide effort by 114 countries taking part in Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Clean-up.

In Hong Kong, 225 teams scoured the beaches and meticulously recorded the rubbish they found.

Last night, Ecovision, which organises the event each year, handed out awards to the teams that collected the most trash (Nomura Group, with 1,905kg) and made the 'weirdest find' (the Oriental Press Group, which hauled in a toilet seat).

Standard Chartered Bank won the largest corporate team award, while Kennedy Primary School's contingent netted the title of largest non-corporate team. The South China Morning Post, one of the event's media partners, came in joint second with two other companies in the 'most trash collected' category.

Not surprisingly, plastic and polystyrene made up the lion's share - over a third - of seaside trash collected. Around 1.4 million plastic bottles and 23 million plastic bags are thrown away in the city daily, and plastics make up approximately three-quarters of trash in the ocean worldwide, according to Ecovision.

But contrary to popular opinion, the main source of coastal trash is not the junk left behind by people after a day at the beach.

Ecovision says 75 to 85 per cent of debris comes from the city's litter, which can be carried out to sea through the drainage system.

'If you walk around in the early morning, you notice that there's thousands of cigarette butts, plastic bottles and bags littering the streets,' said Ecovision chief executive Lisa Christensen.

'A lot of it gets swept down storm drains accidentally and out to sea,' which is why it is important to stop the waste at its source, she said.

Next year, the clean-up will not be limited to the coast, with Ecovision looking to mobilise volunteers in the first-ever challenge to clean up Hong Kong's streets.


The amount of trash, in tonnes, dumped into the ocean each year, according to US estimates