Hong Kong must clean up its act when it comes to garbage

A government-commissioned study found that about 95 per cent of our marine waste is local. Blaming our neighbours alone risks overlooking the full picture

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 11:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 11:54pm

Pictures of beaches awash with bottles and plastic bags are certainly not a feast for the eyes. But our garbage problems are still looming large weeks after the unpleasant news made headlines in the city. We trust readers share the concern after seeing more disturbing images in our investigative report on the possible source of marine refuse, and hopefully, prompts immediate follow-up action from the authorities concerned.

The photo of a person dwarfed by a mountain of trash on an island outside Hong Kong waters is a powerful reminder of the threat at our doorstep. When our reporters visited Wailingding island recently, swathes of trash were floating around the coast. A truck was seen offloading mud over construction waste piled up at the shorefront. Although direct links of our rubbish woes with the dumping on the island have yet to be established, experts say its proximity means the possibility cannot be ruled out. The island is, after all, so close to Lamma and Lantau that our mobile phone signals can be picked up there.

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

A staggering 78,000kg of marine garbage was cleared by the government in early July. Simplified Chinese characters were found on some packaging, raising concerns whether they came from the mainland. But a government-commissioned study found that about 95 per cent of our marine waste is local. Blaming our neighbours alone risks overlooking the full picture.

The truth is that we are one of the most wasteful places on the planet, with an average 14,859 tonnes of solid waste discarded every day in 2014. It translates into an average of 1.35kg per head each day, outstripping citizens in Taipei, Seoul and Singapore. The amount of marine garbage cleared by the government is equally of concern, up from 14,903 tonnes in 2013 to 15,509 tonnes last year. The need to clean up our own act is evident.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged to take up the garbage issue with the relevant mainland authorities. But as we seek to stop others’ trash from washing up our coastline, we should also keep our city clean.