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Most Hong Kong marine waste comes from local sources – not mainland China, government says

Less than 5 per cent of Hong Kong’s marine refuse comes from mainland China, according to a government study on shoreline and floating rubbish. However, the amount of mainland refuse may be underestimated because it is based on labels which contain simplified Chinese characters, which are used on the mainland.

“It is not true as some people think that most of the refuse comes from other places,” said Amy Yuen Wai-yin, an assistant director in the Environmental Protection Department who is responsible for water policy. She was speaking at a press briefing on Friday at which a government report on the issue was released.

“Even in the eastern part of Hong Kong [where waste from mainland China is usually washed up], non-domestic refuse only accounts for about 10 per cent of the rubbish.”

Explaining why only waste with simplified Chinese character labels was categorised as non-local refuse, Yuen said there was “no scientific means to assess where the refuse comes from” and that the current classification system was “by far the most technically viable way”.

The study was conducted between April 2013 and March last year by an inter-departmental working group, which was set up after millions of tiny plastic pellets spilled from six containers which fell from a ship during the passage of a typhoon in July 2012.

Even in the eastern part of Hong Kong non-domestic refuse only accounts for about 10 per cent of the rubbish

Government official Amy Yuen

The group collected 15,000 tonnes of marine refuse – 70 per cent floating waste and the rest found along Hong Kong’s 1,100 kilometres of coastline. Excluding natural debris, more than 70 per cent was non-biodegradable plastic and foam.

The report says that more than 80 per cent of marine refuse comes from land-based sources, mainly recreational activities along shorelines.

Asked if a growing number of visitors – many from the mainland – using local beaches was a reason for an increase in shoreline rubbish, Yuen said: “If there are more people, more activities, and that’s a fact for Hong Kong, there will likely be [more] rubbish.”

The Green Council and Hong Kong Cleanup, two of the government’s partner groups in shoreline cleaning efforts, both think the increasing number of tourists frequenting beaches could be leading to more marine refuse.

“We did notice more rubbish with simplified Chinese character labels, but we don’t know if it was brought by tourists or drifted downstream [from the mainland],” Yuen said.

The government said public education remained the best option to reduce waste generation since the city’s 1,100km-long shoreline could not be patrolled all the time. More water fountains are planned for beaches to deter people from buying bottled water, but this is not always possible because not all beaches have a fresh water supply.

Source URL (modified on Apr 17th 2015, 4:10pm):

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