Piles of black, rubber-like granules have continued to wash up onto the shore of Yi Pak Wan, Discovery Bay. Plastic Free Seas (PFS), a Hong Kong environmental NGO, has called for a “complete and thorough” investigation into the source of the pollution last Friday.

First reports of the appearance of the crumbly substance was brought to the attention of the Marine Department at end of last month.

Black rubber crumb seabed
Photo: ColSimPhotography

In a written statement, PFS expressed frustration at the lack of a coordinated emergency response between government departments, saying that there should be better processes in place to handle such situations.

“Past incidents, including the 2012 plastic pellet spill when 150 tonnes of opaque plastic pellets fell into the ocean from a container ship, as well as a palm oil spill in 2017, have highlighted the need for a coordinated emergency response to marine environment incidents,” the statement read.

Photo: ColSimPhotography

According to Fidra, an NGO providing research on plastic waste and chemical pollution in the sea, rubber infill of this kind contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals which can leach into the ocean and adversely affect marine life. 

The Marine Department told HKFP in an emailed statement that their contractors and personnel did not observe any vessels in the vicinity of the spillage, and had referred the case to “the relevant departments” for follow-up.

washed up rubber crumb
Photo: ColSimPhotography

The Marine Department also confirmed that it has stepped up its patrols and will continue deploying cleansing service contractors to clean up any floating refuse found at sea. The Department informed PSF on Thursday that it plans to send further cleanup teams next week.

According to the Marine Department, a total of around two tons of rubber crumb and sand have been collected from the site so far.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) told HKFP on Friday that it will continue to monitor the developing situation: “The EPD is conducting investigations into the incident and will continue to monitor the water quality in the nearby waters. Cleanup operations will be coordinated in conjunction with the Marine Department, the Discovery Bay Services Management Limited and volunteers as required.”

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.