Taking out the trash: eco-warrior arrives in Hong Kong to help clean city’s beaches, and inspire others to do the same

Hiromasa Suzuki, 31, the founder of environmental organisation Open Earth, heard about the recent influx of rubbish being washed onto local shores, and vowed to do something to help

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 7:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 10:31pm

The pollution crisis on Hong Kong’s beaches last month has prompted an international eco-warrior to come to the city to conduct clean-up operations.

Hiromasa Suzuki, 31, the founder of environmental organisation Open Earth, has been travelling around the Pacific and collecting rubbish on beaches with his hand-held net.

After spending four months in Bali in the midst of its rainy season, he arrived in Hong Kong last Friday and started picking up litter on the shores of Tai Long Wan and Gold Coast.

“After I learned that a lot of rubbish was arriving in Hong Kong, I just decided to come and clean up the beaches here,” Suzuki said.

‘We will clean it ourselves’: Hongkongers clear unprecedented amount of rubbish washed up on city’s beaches

Since June, torrents of rubbish from Guangdong have been washing up on the city’s coast due to heavy rain and flooding in the Pearl River Delta, leaving local beaches in a parlous state.

While Suzuki was cleaning the shores in Gold Coast on Sunday, more than 20 Hongkongers decided to help him. People of all ages and backgrounds collected piles of plastic waste with their bare hands and dumped them into his net. By the end of the clean up, they had collected 10 full 64-gallon bags of garbage.

Suzuki said he hoped to show that one person can make a difference when it comes to improving the environment.

“Sometimes people feel powerless in confronting the pollution problem in the world,” he said.

“But I hope, through my actions, people will understand inspiration can spread.”

Shinya Goshima, the owner of a Japanese restaurant in Central, volunteered to join Suzuki’s clean up. He said the most amazing part of the experience was not the physical act of cleaning but the opportunity to witness how the willingness to clean can spread.

“After I came back from the clean up, I told my friend about it and he decided to join the clean up the very next day,” Goshima said.

In pictures: the tide of trash swamping Hong Kong beaches, the volunteer cleanup and the hidden island dump causing it

Suzuki decided to quit his job in a food packaging factory and dedicate himself to protecting the environment about eight years ago.

His first venture was planting trees in Inner Mongolia. He has planted more than 480,000 trees there so far and will return to continue his efforts there for the fourteenth time next month.

In 2012, Suzuki started presenting himself as a lone crusader who travels around the Pacific to clean the coastlines in order to raise awareness of issues surrounding ocean pollution.

His adventures to Hawaii and Bali have been filmed by a Japanese television channel, and will be shown in a six-part documentary series online.

Suzuki now has more than 2,000 supporters online who help finance his trips and activities. For his trip to Hong Kong, he has also received a donation of HK$5,000 from Ayuchi Momose, the owner of Sake Bar GINN in Lan Kwai Fong.

Momose said, as a businesswoman in the catering industry, she felt guilty for generating so much rubbish every day. When she heard about Suzuki’s story, she immediately decided to help him.