Hongkongers must start thinking about cutting back on plastic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 11:27pm

As a visitor to Hong Kong and a food sustainability consultant I have viewed the discussion about garbage landing on beaches with interest.

The connection between the floods on the mainland and refuse here has raised the possibility that most of it comes from north of the border, though some acknowledge that Hong Kong also generates refuse.

This is a good point of departure to think a little deeper about what part we can play in fixing this.

It was noted that most of the rubbish on Hong Kong beaches is due to changes in currents from increased flooding, diverted from its normal flow out to sea. It is scary we feel it is OK for the rubbish to end up downstream somewhere else, as long as it is not here.

The North Pacific Gyre is a huge slow vortex in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, an enormous garbage dump, about 20 million sq km in size, about the size of China and the US put together and is mostly plastic.

There are five gyres globally and fish, marine mammals, turtles and birds in these areas, trying to feed, end up eating plastic and dying.

So, think about the gyres when you are walking through the supermarket, about how many of the items on sale will end up in the gyre. This could be packaging, clothing and plastic toys.

It is the plastic bags, microbeads, and little plastic parts or toys that are easy for animals to try to eat.

This is a worldwide problem, not just Hong Kong’s, but at least Hongkongers can be lauded for discussing it in the press. I hope that it doesn’t end there.

We also have to think about how much of this plastic affects our food supply. Have people made the connection between the fish they eat and the pollution we constantly throw into the sea?

How can we eliminate the ubiquitous use of plastic in everything we consume? Think about this the next time you pack groceries into plastic bags, or unwrap a toy from its plastic wrapping.

How can consumers and manufacturers eliminate all of this garbage at source?

People need to come up with a system of either reusable bags like some bring to supermarkets, but also either reusable or compostable containers for use throughout our food and shopping system.

Manufacturers and retailers must take responsibility for the “downstream” effect of what they make.

Alan Joynson, London