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April, 2015:

Trash-tracking app could help keep Hong Kong waterways clean

Hikers and beachgoers will be able to send photos to database to help clean-up campaigns

A new “trash-reporting app” will reduce plastic pollution in waterways and eventually the sea by harnessing the power of the public to provide information on its location, according to the app’s developer.

Global Alert is billed as an online mapping tool that allows users – particularly hikers and beachgoers – to report, rate and map the locations of rubbish blackspots and alert the community to take swift action.

Its main focus would be on floating plastic trash, which is produced on land but tends to accumulate in rivers, lakes and coastlines, said Douglas Woodring, co-founder and managing director of the Ocean Recovery Alliance conservation group which developed the app.

“Most trash comes via rivers and waterways before ending up in the ocean,” he said. “You can think of a river as a blood vessel and the ocean as the heart. The trash is the cholesterol.”

Users could send real-time data from their smartphones, including photographs, to a central database, he said. The information would allow volunteer beach and shoreline clean-up crews as well as government departments to better decide where to conduct clean-ups or deploy catchment devices, before the trash moved further downstream.

“It will make it easier to locate and catch this trash before it gets into the sea, where it will be harder to clean up,” Woodring said.

The Environmental Protection Department estimates that up to a quarter of marine refuse found in local coastal areas are “plastic pieces”.

While the amount of marine refuse collected from public beaches and in the open sea has been decreasing, rubbish found near the shore and in marine parks or reserves has been going up, according to government statistics.

“If I’m hiking somewhere and I see trash on a remote beach, I can report it … With this app, you can be effective,” he said.

The alliance, a registered Hong Kong charity, developed the app with funding and endorsement from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans. It is set to be rolled out soon in more than 20 countries.

Source URL (modified on Apr 18th 2015, 1:03am):

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):