There’s no denying the problem of plastic pollution in Hong Kong.
Every day, we dispose of over 16,000 tonnes of trash in our city – including an estimated 1,368,000 disposable plastic bottles, 1,000 tonnes of plastic bags and countless more tonnes of plastic wrapping and packaging. In fact, in 2013, 20% of municipal waste sent to landfill was plastic.
About Plastic Free Seas
Local environmental charity, Plastic Free Seas (PFS) was founded by DB resident Tracey Read in 2012, to help advocate change in the way we all view and use plastics in society today. This is done through education and action campaigns.
“When my son Finn, age nine (then one), played in the water bits of plastic would stick to his skin, and any bites and sores would get infected because the water was so dirty,” says Tracey. “I felt like I needed to do something, that I could do something.”
Doing something led to PFS, the catalyst for which came in 2012 when Hong Kong experienced a plastic pollution disaster in the wake of Typhoon Vicente when 150 tonnes of plastic pellets fell off of a container ship into the ocean. “The public wanted to know more about plastic pollution and its effect. This gave us a platform to launch PFS,” says Tracey.
PFS has worked with over 40 schools (18 since the beginning of 2015) and talked to nearly 3,000 students about the impact of plastic pollution and what they can do.
PFS Sea Classroom
In addition to visiting students in their schools to talk about plastic marine pollution, they have recently launched the PFS Sea Classroom. Dubbed ‘The Little Blue Trawler’, this floating classroom and research vessel allows them to take secondary school students out on the waters of Hong Kong. The aim is to build up a database of what’s happening in our Hong Kong waters, whilst educating locals about the effects of plastics in our oceans.
“We took out a full boat of students and adults, mostly from Discovery Bay, during the Easter holiday,” explains Tracey. “The students learned about tides, winds and sea state, as well as the food chain and impacts of plastic marine pollution. They were very excited to learn about the life in our oceans which we examined under a microscope.”
PFS is also involved in the Coastal Watch Programme (a government-backed project run by WWF and a number of NGOs, including PFS). “This was initiated because of the pellet spill in 2012,” says Tracey. “So far, 868 volunteers have participated, collecting data on a number of Hong Kong’s coastal areas. PFS manages two sites in DB – Sam Pak Wan and Cheung Sha Lan.”
Very soon, they will be looking for more volunteers to help collect more data. To find out how you can get involved, “like” the Coastal Watch Facebook page to get the latest information on the programme.
One great hands-on way you can help keep our Lantau beaches free from plastic is by joining one of the monthly beach clean-ups co-organised by PFS and local non-profit DB Green.
“When people see the problem for themselves they are more likely to be part of the solution,” says Dana Winograd, who heads up PFS with Tracey. “This is why we encourage people, especially children, to join our beach cleanups, or to clean a beach themselves. Knowing that every piece of rubbish picked up off a beach means one less piece of rubbish to harm any of Hong Kong’s varied marine life such as fish, turtles, horseshoe crabs, coral and our beautiful yet endangered white dolphins, either by entangling or ingestion, is very powerful. Children are our future, so the earlier we teach them to love our seas, the better.”
Another way to help eliminate plastics and other waste in our city is by joining the annual Hong Kong Cleanup, organised locally by Ecozine and The Nature Conservancy. Last year, the cleanup engaged 51,064 volunteers, collecting 3,894,000kg of trash over 1,847km of shorelines, country park trails and city streets. This year’s cleanup takes place from September to November.
Plastic-free living checklist
Everyone can do something to help with the problem of plastic, and PFS wants to help you on that path. As well as taking part in beach cleanups or helping to collect data, why not make plastic-free living a way of life? “Put up a simple action checklist on your fridge and mark each new thing you can incorporate into your life,” says Tracey. “Soon bringing a plastic bag with you to the supermarket or using your own cutlery will become a habit.”
DB Green, www.dbgreen.org
Change Org, www.change.org
Coastal Watch Programme, www.coastalwatch.org
Hong Kong Cleanup, www.hkcleanup.org
Plastic Free Seas, www.plasticfreeseas.org