Many of Hong Kong’s beaches remain strewn with trash after heavy rain brought an influx of debris onto the city’s shorelines over a week ago.

Clean-up operations – often led by NGOs, residents or lifeguards – have taken place on Lamma Island, in Tsuen Wan, Tsing Yi, and on the beaches at Discovery Bay and Pui O on Lantau Island.

Lamma Island’s Power Station Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

HKFP noted that much of the debris on Lamma’s Power Station Beach was driftwood or plastic, though around half of it had already been cleared by local residents by early this week.

Lamma Island’s Power Station Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP Drone.

Among them was Jessica, who was tidying the beach alone on Wednesday morning.

“Just wanted to help the community… I found out the beach was dirty over the weekend and was shocked by it,” she told HKFP. “I’m just doing my fair share, then getting back to work.”

Lamma Island’s Power Station Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP Drone.

Hong Kong’s Lifeguards General Union said on Facebook that they had removed 20 bags of garbage from Pui O beach last week, spotting metal cans, bottles, food packaging among the trash.

Pui O last week. Photo: Lifeguards General Union via Facebook.

They urged Hongkongers not to litter in country parks.

Plastic disaster

Dana Winograd of NGO Plastic Free Seas told HKFP that they conduct monthly clean-ups at Discovery Bay’s Nim Shue Wan and Cheung Sha Lan beaches, adding that it was difficult for the government to keep up with clearances.

“If you consider how much coastline Hong Kong has, there are a vast number of beaches, rocky areas, etc… for rubbish to wash in on, although a lot of it is hard to access or even inaccessible,” she said on Tuesday.

Lamma Island’s Power Station Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP Drone.

“We recycle the clean, good condition plastic beverage bottles and cans we find, but unfortunately the government contractors do not. Not all clean-up groups are able to either,” Winograd added.

Some of the waste which washed up on Lamma was packaging which appeared to originate locally, as well as from mainland China. Winograd’s NGO examined plastic bottles which washed up on three beaches over recent weeks, finding that – on average – 21 per cent appeared to be from the mainland, whilst 55 per cent appeared to have originated locally.

Sam Pak Wan near Discovery Bay. Photo Plastic Free Seas.

“The best way to tackle plastic marine pollution is to stop it from getting in the ocean in the first place,” Winograd said, as she urged Hongkongers and the authorities to tackle the issue of single-use plastic and ban polystyrene food containers.

5 gov’t dep’s tasked with clean-ups

The removal of trash from beaches often involves different government departments, depending on whether the trash is on the ocean’s surface, near or around the shore, or whether it lands on a government-managed, or non-gazetted, beach.

Lamma Island’s Power Station Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP Drone.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) cleans government-managed beaches, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department deals with beaches within marine parks, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) looks after all other shorelines, the Marine Department takes care of debris floating on the sea, whilst the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) coordinates regular clean-up programmes and works with NGOs.

The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) cleared eight bags of trash from Tai O, with help from Lantau Culture Workshop and Lantau Ocean Academy last weekend. Viena Mak, vice-chair of HKDCS, told HKFP that beaches which are not managed by the authorities are not being cleaned frequently enough: “The definition of ‘beach area’ by the government is poor too, as some marine trash trapped in the bush may not be tackled by the government.”

In response to HKFP, the EPD told HKFP that a heavy rain alert system exists between Hong Kong, Guangdong and Shenzhen authorities, so all parties can prepare for any weather-driven accumulation of refuse: “In the coming weeks, EPD will step up shoreline monitoring, with the aid of drones for wider coverage of remote sites, to identify coastal spots with refuse accumulation and coordinate with relevant departments and parties for ad hoc clean-up actions as necessary,” they said.

Lamma Island’s Power Station Beach on Sunday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The LCSD – which manages 42 gazetted beaches – told HKFP on Wednesday that additional cleaning teams were deployed to the Tsuen Wan and Islands Districts following the unstable weather. It is also working with other departments to clear garbage: “Through the close connection amongst member departments, we continuously offer utmost efforts to address the issue of marine [refuse] in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the FEHD told HKFP it carries out additional clean-ups when required and has 360-degree cameras set up at 15 remote sites for long-range, wide-area coastal surveillance.


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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.