Coastal trash: HK fingers mainland

Mr Leung helping to pick up refuse washed ashore at the top of a beach in Hong Kong yesterday. He blamed the mainland for the rising amount of rubbish on the city's beaches.
Mr Leung helping to pick up refuse washed ashore at the top of a beach in Hong Kong yesterday. He blamed the mainland for the rising amount of rubbish on the city's beaches.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Hong Kong's leader is blaming a huge rise in rubbish blighting the city's beaches on refuse washed ashore from the mainland, and pledged talks with the Chinese authorities to stem the tide.

Environmentalists have posted images on social media of trash covering several beaches, including plastic bottles and packaging with labels written in simplified Chinese characters - used in mainland China but not Hong Kong.

Speaking after a visit to a coastal area yesterday morning, Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying said the refuse had been washed up in the city after heavy rain and floods struck southern China.

"A lot of domestic garbage was washed towards Hong Kong from the mainland... predictably due to heavy rainfall and floods in the past few weeks," he told reporters in Lantau Island.

The extra waste imposed an increased burden on cleanup crews, he added, with the amount collected on beaches and other coastal areas "multiple times" what was seen over the same period last year.

"This is an extraordinary situation... We will follow this up with Guangdong's relevant authorities," he said, referring to the mainland province neighbouring the city.

Ms Lisa Christensen, founder and CEO of Hong Kong Cleanup, said the amount of rubbish over the weekend was the "worst" she had ever seen but that such build-ups occur annually when the winds change direction.

Although mainland China is definitely one source of shoreline waste, the group estimated that more than 50 per cent of the rubbish came from Hong Kong, Ms Christensen said.

Flooding is common during the summer monsoon season in southern China, but rainfall has been particularly heavy this year and many areas were lashed by torrential rain last week.

"If you actually look at the trash... it does not look like stuff you find in supermarkets here... This is not like our normally trashed beaches," Hong Kong-based green activist Gary Stokes, of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said on Facebook.

But he added it is not "a chance to bash China", as the city should also tackle its own waste problems. "Hong Kong creates more trash per capita than anywhere on earth; our track record on recycling efforts and cleanliness are dire," he said.

Domestic waste is deposited in landfill sites but also litters country parks, coastal areas and waterways.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Coastal trash: HK fingers mainland'. Print Edition | Subscribe