Most Hong Kong marine rubbish is local and not from mainland, says government report

Government says less than 5pc of garbage found at sea or on coastline comes from mainland, based on labels in simplified Chinese

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 April, 2015, 1:00am

Less than 5 per cent of marine rubbish comes from the mainland, a government study found amid fears that more garbage is being dumped on our beaches as visitor numbers rise.

However, this figure may be on the low side because it is based on labels with the simplified Chinese characters that are used on the mainland.

More than 70 per cent of the trash was non-biodegradable plastic and foam, while about 30 per cent was natural debris.

The report found that over 80 per cent of marine refuse was from land-based sources, meaning it was not dumped at sea, and was mainly the result of recreational activities such as barbecues and beach-going along shorelines.

"It is not true what some people think that most of the refuse comes from other places," said Amy Yuen Wai-yin, an assistant director of environmental protection responsible for water policy.

"Even in the eastern part of Hong Kong [where waste from the mainland usually washes up], non-domestic refuse only accounts for about 10 per cent of the rubbish."

Explaining why only waste with simplified Chinese character labels was categorised as non-local refuse, Yuen said there was "no scientific means to assess where the refuse comes from" and that the current classification system was "by far the most technically viable way".

The study was conducted between April 2013 and March last year by an interdepartmental working group, which was set up after millions of tiny plastic pellets spilled from six containers on a ship during the passage of a typhoon in July 2012.

The group collected 15,000 tonnes of marine refuse - 70 per cent floating waste and the rest found along Hong Kong's 1,100km of coastline.

Asked if the growing number of visitors - many from the mainland - using beaches was a reason for an increase in shoreline rubbish, Yuen said: "If there are more people, more activities, and that's a fact for Hong Kong, there will likely be [more] rubbish."

The Green Council and Hong Kong Cleanup, two of the government's partner groups in efforts to clean up shorelines, believed the increasing number of tourists frequenting beaches could be generating more rubbish.

"We did notice more rubbish with simplified Chinese character labels, but we don't know if it was brought by tourists or if it drifted downstream [from the mainland]," Yuen said.

The government said public education remained the best way to cut waste since the shoreline could not be patrolled all the time.