Polystyrene proves to be beach enemy No 1

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 5:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

Polystyrene has emerged as the biggest beach menace, according to results of a coastal clean-up campaign.

An estimated one-third of the 43,258 pieces of rubbish collected at some 35 sites on Hong Kong shorelines were chunks of polystyrene, almost twice last year's count of 7,251, according to the Green Council, which co-ordinated the campaign.

The second most commonly found item of beach rubbish was broken glass, followed by plastic bottle caps, the council said. Not far behind were cigarette butts, plastic bottles and straws.

While plastic bags still made the beach waste top 10, the amount of bags collected fell from 6,738 pieces last year to 2,180 pieces, and they moved down from being the third most common waste items to eighth.

The total weight of all rubbish gathered exceeded 5.3 tonnes - including some unlikely items such as a broken toilet bowl, a television set and a car bumper.

Despite the volume, it was the best result since the council launched the clean-up campaign in Hong Kong in 2008 and down from last year's 5.6 tonnes.

The worst year was 2011 when more than 9.67 tonnes of rubbish was collected.

The Green Council's senior project administrator Karrie Chan Ka-lai attributed this year's improvement partly to the government's recent promotion about keeping the shorelines clean. But she also called for strengthening civic education.

"It is common for beachgoers to dump their rubbish around the area, although there are litter bins," said Chan, who also called on the government to introduce more recycling bins at the city's beaches.

Veteran environmental protection advocate Professor Ho Kin-chung, dean of the school of science and technology at the Open University, said there was a need to step up prosecutions for littering and rubbish dumping.

He said this would be of particular importance when the plan to impose a waste levy went ahead. Otherwise, the city's beaches could become dumping grounds.

The clean-up campaign took place between late September and early November.

This year saw the participation of about 3,000 volunteers from 62 schools, companies, and community groups.

The event was launched initially in response to the International Coastal Cleanup, a global campaign initiated in 1986 by Ocean Conservancy - a United States-based green organisation that aims to promote the health of marine ecosystems.