Long-term zero-waste plan needed to ensure our beaches stay clean

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 9:43pm

The marine litter situation in Hong Kong has been worsening for years, and it seems now it has reached a tipping point, with global media shining a spotlight on our shorelines. And while the long weekend in Hong Kong (July 1-3) was marred by a torrent of plastic and domestic waste that turned the coastal waters into a virtual cesspool, with beaches piled high with trash, and media is reporting it as though it’s never been seen before, this is commonplace, especially at this time of year.

The public outcry from concerned citizens is new. And it’s about time.

We should all start taking more serious action to clean up our act. There must be no more blame games and no more finger-pointing.

It is high time we all took responsibility for our consumption habits.

For 15 years, we have submitted reports with data our teams have collected during the annual Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge, sharing the types and proportions of trash collected from our shorelines and natural ecosystems by volunteer teams from local companies, schools, NGOs, the government, families and individuals.

Each year, we highlight the vital importance of upstream source reduction, zero-waste solutions, and strategic government action.

A long-term zero-waste plan could be initiated, and the banning of certain single-use plastics should be considered. Other municipalities around the world have set positive examples.

Serious local, and cross-border investigations should be put in place immediately to find out exactly who is responsible for the ever increasing domestic waste washing up on our shores.

The government should effectively address major environmental concerns such as marine debris, and consider its effects on citizens’ health and on the economy, and act accordingly.

Volunteer clean-ups are one part of the solution, an educational tool and source of data. They are not the solution to the tidal wave of trash in our waters.

This could be a pivotal moment that Hong Kong looks back on with shame.

However, if the government seizes this opportunity to take real, serious action, it can become the historic moment we decided to properly address an urgent environmental crisis, and turn things around. It’s not too late and it’s up to each and every one of us.

For citizens who want to lend a hand, please visit www.HKcleanup.org.

Lisa Christensen, founder and CEO, Hong Kong Cleanup