Massive flooding in the Pearl River Delta and the effects of a lingering El Nino may have reduced thecapability of the ocean to flush out pollution, worsening the city’srecent coastal waste woes. Dr David Baker, of the University of Hong Kong Swire Institute of Marine Science, said the recent deluge of rubbish washing up on the city’s beaches offered just a brief glimpse of the “compounding effects” climate change could bring, namely warmer oceans and more extreme weather. “As a result of the protracted El Nino, the western Pacific was turned into a warm, stagnant pool, which lacked the flushing capability of natural circulation,” he said. “Add the floods in the delta region and this created a perfect storm.” Baker said scientists in the past had made the mistake of looking at climate change as something separate from other environmental issues such as waste. In pictures: the tide of trash swamping Hong Kong beaches, the volunteer cleanup and the hidden island dump causing it The government has blamed most of the rubbish washing up on the city’s beaches and shorelines on heavy rain and flooding in Pearl River cities on the mainland. More than 78,000kg of marine refuse was collected from affected beaches and coastal areasbetween July 1 and 9. Environment chief Wong Kam-sing said an interdepartmental working group would look into how climate change patterns would “make such unusual incidents happen more frequently”. Patrick Yeung Chung-wing, who manages WWF’s Coastal Watch project, said extreme weather would make cross-border waste more common. But he said it would also cause more of the city’s own waste to end up in its waterways – and in many cases, the digestive tracts of marine life. “It’s inevitable, but what Hong Kong and the mainland can do is reduce the amount of waste that can end up in the sea,” he said. ‘We will clean it ourselves’: Hongkongers clear unprecedented amount of rubbish washed up on city’s beaches “Most of this marine refuse is made up of disposable items, so we need to reduce waste at its source.” Professor Ho Kin-chung, dean of the Open University’s school of science and technology, said an average of 14,000 tonnes of rubbish hit Hong Kong’s shores every year, with 95 per cent produced locally. He said Hong Kong and Guangdong authorities needed to collaborate more to prevent rubbish from washing out to sea. Experts believe the tides of mainland rubbish – distinguishable by simplified Chinese labelling – masked persistent problems with local rubbish. “People don’t see it because it gets cleaned up. Now they see it,” Baker said. Locals are already beginning to take the situation into their own hands. “This year, the [situation] was so bad we thought we better do something about it,” said Stanley resident Hughie Doherty, who helped create the Stanley Beach Clean Up group on Facebook. The group of 15 collected 150 bags of rubbish on Stanley beach on Sunday and will hold another one next Saturday. “It could turn into something that we’ll do as a regular activity,” he said.