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

Hongkongers vent their anger on social media at unprecedented volume of waste washing ashore and call on government – whose consultants have said it is not a serious problem – to act

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 12:45pm

An environmental disaster is unfolding along Hong Kong’s coasts, with an unprecedented amount of rubbish having washed up on shorelines in the past few weeks, environmental groups say.

Hongkongers have taken to social media to vent their anger and share images of beaches, from Stanley to Cheung Sha in south Lantau, strewn with household and other waste. They have called on the government to take urgent action.

Environmental campaign group Sea Shepherd Hong Kong says a possible source for some of the waste is Weilingding, an island south of Cheung Chau that may have become an illegal rubbish dump. The island, seven nautical miles south of Hong Kong, is under the jurisdiction of Zhuhai in Guangdong.

Social media reaction to the desecration of beaches

“On the south side of the island, sailors and fishermen from Hong Kong have reported seeing a huge trash dump down the side of the cliffs. Images of this trash dump can be seen on Google Earth and we have received some images that clearly show the extent of this monster. Trash from here is entering the sea and the Hong Kong government should, in their cross-border liaisons that are now occurring, address this.”

Sea Shepherd says as well as waste generated in Hong Kong washing up, there appears to be mass illegal dumping of household waste into the Pearl River in Guangdong. “This would normally be taken out into the South China Sea. “With the change of wind and currents it has blown back, right into our shores,” it says.

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In a Facebook post, Lantau resident Sarah Wilson says the state of Cheung Sha beach on July 2 was the worst she had seen in 20 years.

“The seas are awash with so much [rubbish] that it just keeps arriving on the shoreline - it’s embarrassing. Why is it that as the Government is trying to promote this area as a tourist attraction ... no one wants to sit on a beach with this,” she wrote.

Shek O resident Danielle Stutterd says the amount of rubbish on Shek O beach at the weekend was “mind blowing”.

Lisa Christensen, founder of environmental action group HK Cleanup, says Hong Kong is on the brink of a waste crisis, but is only “taking small, hesitant steps in the face of it”.

“It’s time for the Hong Kong government to invest serious capital into a massive clean-up effort, and start working on upstream solutions to stop the trash at source.”

Watch how volunteers are cleaning up one part of Hong Kong waters

The Hong Kong government commissioned a report in 2013 to identify measures to enhance inter-departmental efforts to address the marine refuse problem. The stated objectives of the study were to collect, collate and analyse up-to-date information on the sources, fates, distribution and movement of marine refuse in Hong Kong waters; and to formulate policies to prevent and reduce marine refuse. In 2015 the consultants commissioned to compile the report, Mott MacDonald, found that marine refuse does not constitute a serious problem in Hong Kong.

Stutterd says: “Hong Kong needs free education programmes in local schools, even kindergartens, to teach the young about recycling and waste. If it gets worse there is no point living in Shek O. I’m not sitting around and swimming in rubbish.”