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9,000 Volunteers Collect Over 36,000 Kilos of Trash at Hong Kong Coasts Growing Number of Hong Kong People Committed to Fighting Marine Pollution

2010-12-04

(4 December 2010 - Hong Kong) Close to 9,000 volunteers joined the Hong Kong International Coastal Cleanup Challenge (HKICC) this year to clean up over 150 beaches, shorelines and inland locations in Hong Kong. 36,113kg of trash was collected, up 20% compared to last year.  An award ceremony was jointly organized by Ecovision Asia and Ocean Park, with Nomura as the lead sponsor, today to announce this year’s results. Celebrity Goodwill Ambassadors, Lisa Selesner and Jocelyn Luko, attended the event to present awards to the winning teams at Ocean Park.

Plastic and polystyrene were the number one marine debris items again this year, comprising over 1/3 of the trash collected. While the plastic bag levy introduced by the Hong Kong Government has led to a drastic improvement in plastic bag use – as evidenced by a 90% reduction in plastic bag use in shops and supermarkets implementing the levy - the result of the cleanup nevertheless suggested that future policies may need to further take into consideration other retailers which have yet to enforce the policy. Polystyrene is a great concern on Hong Kong beaches as it is not only challenging to collect, but it is also toxic, hard to decompose and affects sensitive coastal ecosystems like mangroves and wetlands.

Food wrappers and containers made up 8.5% of the total amount of trash collected. This suggests household waste in Hong Kong is not being disposed of properly, and that there is a need to examine the overuse of disposable foodware. Glass bottles and broken glass pieces comprised over 8% of the total number of items collected this year, which might be resolvable by a more effective recycling program.

Awards were presented to the teams with the most amount of trash collected, with the largest participation from corporate and non-corporate members, the best team spirit, weirdest find and with the best ”green” sense. In these teams was the HKICC’s fifty-thousandth volunteer since the challenge first started in 1999: Green Pagoda’s Derek Yip. When asked about why he took part in HKICC, Derek responded, “It’s important to be involved, to be responsible, and to make a connection with your community. We all live here, whether it’s been for a short time or a long time. You can’t walk down a beach, see it’s dirty, and not do anything. Each of us has to be responsible. If we all pitch in and make an effort, it isn’t such an overwhelming project.”
Marine debris is one of the most widespread pollution problems Hong Kong faces, with plastics making up approximately three-quarters of all trash floating in the ocean. Birds, fish and other wildlife can easily mistake smaller debris for food, which will lead to damage to their bodies if ingested. Eliminating the threat of marine debris will help improve the ocean's health. The ocean is an important life support system for humans, and damage done to the ocean will in turn be harmful to our health and well-being, our coastal economies and wildlife animals.

In view of this, HKICC has been recruiting teams of volunteers to remove trash and debris from Hong Kong’s beaches and waterways, to identify the sources of debris, and to induce policy and behavioural changes that affect the creation of marine debris. For the past ten years, HKICC has shown steady growth in both volunteer numbers and amount of debris collected, and the results from 2010 continue to support this trend. Past coastal cleanup data suggested that most (between 75-85 percent) of the debris on Hong Kong’s beaches and shorelines come from inland sources after being dropped by citizens and were then carried through storm drains or creeks out to the beaches and ocean. Rain, or even something as simple as hosing down a sidewalk, can wash cigarette butts, Styrofoam pieces, pesticides and oil into the storm drains and out to the ocean.

Hong Kong’s beaches and waterways may be collecting spots for marine debris, but Hong Kong people have demonstrated their support for cleaning oceans and beaches by turning out by the thousands at the 10th Annual HKICC. Ecovision urges all Hong Kong citizens to take responsibility for making sure trash goes where it belongs - securely in a trashcan, recycling bin, or landfill when appropriate.

“Momentum is building. There is a growing understanding of the significant impact trash has on wildlife, the economy and the productivity and resiliency of our ocean. The trash picked up and data generated by hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers around the world provide us with a global snapshot of the trash in our ocean, but cleanups alone cannot solve the problem – it's time to stop marine debris at the source,” said Lisa Christensen, Founder and Director of Ecovision, the official event organizer.

“The success of Coastal Cleanup Challenge is a tribute to the many partnerships Ecovision has formed over the years to support the event. 2010 is the finest example of this to date,” said Ms. Christensen. “From our new partnership with Ocean Park and Kerry Holdings, to the ongoing support of Presenting Sponsor Nomura and Diamond Sponsor CLSA, to the Chambers of Commerce, non-profit groups, local government departments and media partners that help promote the event and raise awareness of the issues, the Coastal Cleanup Challenge family continues to grow, binding the people of Hong Kong to our coast no matter where they may live.”

Mr. Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive of Ocean Park Corporation, said, “We at Ocean Park are very pleased to see that more and more Hong Kong people are committed to maintaining marine health through concrete actions. It is our strong belief that by connecting people to nature through the Ocean Park offerings, more people will be able to establish a closer bond with the environment and thus develop a passion for conservation.  Ocean Park has participated in the HKICC campaign for 7 consecutive years and each year the number of participants continues to grow. As co-organizer of the ceremony, I am delighted to see that more organizations in Hong Kong have joined the endeavor to contribute to this meaningful event.”

“Nomura is proud to be the lead sponsor of the Hong Kong International Coastal Cleanup Challenge for the second consecutive year which highlights our commitment to supporting environmental initiatives.  We are thrilled to be involved with a program that takes such a hands-on approach by not only hosting and organizing cleanup events throughout the region but also educating and engaging thousands of schools, corporates and individuals in the Hong Kong community.  We believe a healthy environment is the foundation of stable economic and social conditions for future generations and the Hong Kong International Coastal Cleanup Challenge overwhelming supports that vision.” said Ms. Alison Harbert, Diversity and Inclusion, Nomura Asia ex-Japan.

As part of the celebration, a green fashion presentation took place after the award ceremony, where top models Jocelyn Luko, Cara G, rising stars Lexa Shevchenko and Sigute Krilaviciute showcased recycled couture pieces created by international eco-designer Karta Healy. The couture pieces are made from recycled sail fabric, as well as discarded materials, like rice bags that can be found on beaches. The works are conceived around a distinctly Asian / Hong Kong theme that local audiences can easily relate to, so as to further promote the awareness of marine conservation in the territory.