Nurdlers we need you NOW!

Thanks to Typhoon Kai-Tak our beaches are covered with pellets again which is a good thing, they have been swept out of rocks and onto the beaches.  The more that we can remove from the tidelines over the next few days the better for the marine life and sea.  I’ve been out to the beaches in Discovery Bay this morning and there are a lot of pellets mixed in with the typhoon plastics & debris.

This is Nim Shue Wan.

And Sam Pak Wan at the North Plaza

The tides are really low at the moment so it is the perfect time to get out there now and help us remove this snow from the beaches.  This is Mui Wo below

Please keep up the great effort.  This weekend is critical for cleaning up as many as we can whilst they are still easily accessible.  There are lots of tools on many of the beaches and bags and gloves too.  But if you are going to a more remote beach please take your own supplies.  Brushes and dustpans are especially helpful at the moment.

For all the latest updates.

http://www.facebook.com/DBGreenHK?ref=hl#!/DBGreenHK

http://www.facebook.com/PlasticDisasterHongKong?ref=hl

Everybody is going Nurdling!

What a weekend of cleanups!  Over 800 people on Lamma Island, 500 people on Chi Ma Wan peninsula, 200 on Peng Chau, 111 on Shek O, over 100 in Discovery Bay too.  And these are just the areas that we know of.   Everywhere I go I see people on beaches in goups, in families, as a couple or an individual, head down and concentrating hard on removing those nurdles from the sand.  I see people wandering the streets heading to ferry piers and buses carrying sieves and brushes and buckets.  Walking along the beaches all you see are happy people enjoying time with their families and friends and participating in the latest craze to hit Hong Kong – Nurdling.  So many of you are also spending your time on the beaches removing a lot of the other waste as well endeavouring to really clean up all the plastics that are there.

Maybe this is the start of the change when HK people show the government, industry and the rest of the world that they want to reclaim their beaches and have them free from the build up of years of waste & detritus.  Try to wipe the slate (or beach!) clean and start again with a different attitude   Maybe now we will see a push for a real effort by the governement to look at their waste management plans which includes everything; a proper recycling infrastructure, waste reduction measures, and waste disposal technology, we will see more consumers choosing to use less plastic in their daily lives, we’ll see industry look at how they package their products to reduce the amount of plastic & styrofoam they use.  We’ll see people connecting the rubbish that is being cleaned off the beach to their lifestyles and habits.  And over the next few years we won’t see so much rubbish on our beaches, and our water will be cleaner.

That’s what I’d like to see happen from this terrible event and having spoken to so many of the volunteers over the last few weeks I know this is a sentiment shared by many.

This weekend is going to be an interesting one.  Typhoon Kai Tak will be passing by tonight or tomorrow and we are not sure what effect this will have on the beaches and the pellets that are still on the sand, in the rocks and in the water.

We are anticipating a lot of typhoon debris to be washed up with a good mix of pellets all over the beaches.  We are also expecting a lot more pellets to be in the water along the coastlines.  So with this in mind we are asking all our volunteers to head down to the beaches when it is safe to do so after the typhoon.  Obviously be very mindful of dangers that are always present after typhoons such as fallen trees and branches and rough water.  Safety is our first priority!

The typhoon/pellet debris needs to be removed – please don’t try and separate the mix as it will be far more effcient to spend your time removing the bulk of the whole mess.  If you have access to a pool type net or similar and there are pellets in the water, please try and remove them whilst they are close to shore.

And please keep in contact with the Plastic Disaster HK page   http://www.facebook.com/PlasticDisasterHongKong .  We need lots of updates on the situation on all the beaches.

The quicker we can act on this the better.

Peng Chau – the good, the bad, the ugly

Who knew there were so many beaches on Peng Chau?  I was so pleasantly surprised at the number of stunning isolated beaches on this little Island today.  I walked to the back of the island and stood by myself looking out at a great view of Hong Kong Island, my own private beach overlooking one of the most interesting & densely populated cities in the world!

The sad thing was when I turned around and looked into the treeline, my heart sank.  There was styrofoam, plastic, lids, toys, bottles, you name it it was there all mixed in with thousands of pellets.  Sadly much of this rubbish has been here a very long time.  Tree roots have grown through wedges of styrofoam and bottles have become completely entangled.  Large plastic pieces have become parts of the tree unable to be removed.  It is a dreadful scourge on the beach.

There weren’t a lot of nurdles on the beach sand but once you started looking into the piles of styrofoam and trash you could see there were actually thousands of nurdles mixed in with the rubbish and many had obviously been there for a very long time.  They infiltrated the rubbish pile right down to the layer of dirt.  Hong Kong has been concentrating on fresh nurdles but here was a very dirty little secret being uncovered.  Why was there such a high concentration of old nurdles here?

Now the volunteers all came to the beach to help pick up the nurdles.  Many for the first time too.  It was interesting for me to speak with them and see their reaction to this.  Some got it; the connection between the environmental/health hazard of the plastic nurdles and the huge environmental hazard of this pile of waste.  The shock on their faces as they scooped and dug and removed bag after bag of this trash was palpable.   There were lots of comments about the need to remove this from the beaches as well, with or without an infestation of nurdles.

Today on this beach only well over 50 people came to help clear this horrendous patch.  When I left mid afternoon, many more people were coming and we had already collected at least 40 bags full.  Everyone worked hard and once progress was made, you could really see the difference from all the effort.  The pellet spill is proving to be a massive wake up call on marine pollution in general.  Seeing these huge deposits of our waste on these remote beaches is opening a lot of people’s eyes to the bigger picture of plastic usage in Hong Kong.

There will be more people on Peng Chau tomorrow.  This beach is number 5 on the DB Green map and number 16 on the new Plastic Disaster map.  There is likely to be a lot of waste still on this beach so if you want to see it for yourself and help clear it away, please do.

Thanks to all the volunteers who are still coming out in such high numbers.  Your dedication & enthusiasm is so wonderful to see and be a part of.

Tracey x

Talk about a revolution …

What an incredible weekend!  Hong Kong you have done yourself proud.

Photo taken by Cheung Chi Wai capturing the spirit of the day on Tung O.  Co-operating to remove the hundreds of bags of collected pellets.

Two weeks ago today Typhoon Vicente hit Hong Kong and left us with a terrible legacy that will be with us for many years.  I never thought this plastic pellet disaster would be a uniting point for Hong Kong.  What we have witnessed these last few days has been unprecedented.   Thousands of volunteers have taken up the call for action like never before to come out en masse to our beaches.   Through social media and then mainstream media, everyone in Hong Kong has heard of what has happened and so many have come out to help.

Many of these people are way out of their comfort zone.  They have never attended a beach cleanup and interacted in their environment as they have now.  Gary and I have been so overwhelmed with offers of support.  We have been absolutely inundated with emails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook posts … all from people asking where they can help out.   And help out they/you have!  Hitting the beaches, motivating friends to join and removing thousands of kilograms of pellets and plastic rubbish.

On Friday and Saturday we organised planned cleanups in Discovery Bay.  Friday’s turnout was modest but Saturday’s was awesome!  Over 400 people came here from all over Hong Kong to help out with some even travelling from Fanling.  And they worked hard too; removing piles of pellets contaminated with typhoon debris and sweeping the beach of nurdle trails it was fantastic to see.  But it didn’t stop there, the next day they came back.  And they are back again today.

I have just returned from the beach inspired.  People have taken it upon themselves to organise their own cleanup groups and come down to help.  They are sweeping nurdles from the sand, scooping the soup of pellets from the water and piling the mounds of typhoon debris that still remains in bushes into garbage bags.  There are some really ingenious nurdle capturing methods evolving.  Everyone is down there working hard, having fun, connecting with their environment and really making a difference.

When I have thanked them all for coming down to help out, their responses are all the same.  “It is my duty”, “These are our beaches too”,  “I want Hong Kong to be a clean city with clean water”.   These people do care about where we live and I really feel that this is the start of a movement that really pushes for the things that we NEED in the city.  Clean air, clean water, clean surroundings.  The will is certainly there to improve things we just need to keep acting.

On Sunday we went out to Tung O on Lamma Island to the site of the worst spill.  The whole container load of pellets which is 1000 bags (25,000 kg) washed into this area.  This really was ground zero in terms of contamination.  It seemed that most of it washed into one area.

Sunday was the first day of mobilsation of people to this area.  There was such a build up of momentum for this day, people wanted to help so badly.  They had seen the photos of the ‘snow’ that was covering this beautiful and isolated part of HK and wanted to see for themselves the enormity of the pellet spill.

Most of the people travelled to Lamma by ferry and to get to Tung O it is then a 1 hour hike.  By the end of the day we had over 1000 people in one bay, on the beaches and in the rocks.  Words can’t describe accurately how special this was to see.  All these people cared so much and made this big effort to get here bringing with them buckets, spades, seives, bags, water and anything else they thought they needed.  They were streaming into the bay from the hiking trails and off junk boats.

Ocean Park had also become involved over the weekend to help mobilise volunteers and they brought with them hundreds of people.  Lamma Corner (NGO) helped co-ordinate this mass of incoming visitors.  Sinopec also had 50 of their staff to come and help cleanup with their volunteers including some senior management from Beijing.  The government was there too with teams from the FEHD & Marine Dept.

Thanks to Yiu Nam for this photo

If I had had the chance to take a breath and think about what I wanted the outcome of this disaster to be I could never had imagined that my ‘plastic dreams’ would come true.  To have thousands of people come down to the beaches day after day and get involved in a cleanup event is unheard of.  Removing the nurdles from the beaches and sea was the number 1 priority.  But having people really see for themselves the wider effects of our daily living in HK was the best bit for me.  Having the chance to talk to these volunteers was inspiring.

On the beaches we saw families with children enthusiastically picking out nurdles from the sand and their parents picking up plastic bottles, bags & styrofoam that was also littering the beach.  We need to join the dots, or the nurdles, and realise that this problem of plastic on our beacches is only going to be solved when we change our behaviours.  Picking up plastic, nurdles, bottles, straws, wrappers and everything is necessary but reducing dependence on them in the first place will have a very big impact too!

Keep up the fabulous work HK and thank you – you people amaze me and give me hope!

Thank you Hongkongers!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you to all the 200 plus people that came to Discovery Bay today to help us clear up the pellets from our beaches.  You guys are awesome.  I couldn’t believe how far some of you travelled to get here and for most of you it was your first time to Discovery Bay and your first time participating in a beach cleanup!

The response from the media was quite overwhelming.  When the papers finally picked up on the story (via social media) everything went into overdrive.  Gary & I were interviewed pretty much non stop from 4pm Friday.  We were still receiving calls at 2am (why oh why people!!)  and Saturday was more hectic.  The media storm had arrived!  The big story was in Apple Daily with some pretty impressive animations to dramatise the event http://hk.dv.nextmedia.com/actionnews/hit/20120804/16574795/16575340

The media likes to have bad guys in a story as that is far more interesting than everyone co-operating in a disaster and there were certainly a lot of questions trying to get us to blame and point fingers.  There were a lot of people that expressed the view that the government was too slow to react.  It probably would have been better for the government to release a statement earlier but just like most of the population of HK no one really had any idea of the issues invovled with pre-production pellets or nurdles at the begining.  I am not trying to condone the government’s actions but I can understand that they needed to work out what the issues were before releasing a statement.  It certainly would have been better for us and the environment if they had done this earlier as it would have evoked a faster reaction from cleanup crews and volunteers.  There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from this disaster and hopefully in the future we will see better practices from everyone that has been involved.  There are things that can be improved on with Sinopec, the shipping company and the government.

Just to give you an idea of how much has been cleaned this is a before and almost after couple of pictures.  All the volunteers worked so hard, were really enthusiastic and seemed to have a lot of fun.  It was great!

The rubbish pictured above is on the high tide line.  It is made up of typhoon debris and pellets.  Most of it is small fragments of plastic and unfortunately there is just so much of it.  It runs most of the way along the beach.  All this needs to be go!

And most of it did go!!  Over 200 bags were filled on the beach which includes a huge amount of pellets as well as a lot of typhoon debris.  This beach has not been this clean for a very long time.  It really looks beautiful – thank you to all those who worked so hard on this beach and on all the other beaches.

One thing that will happen and we need to focus on is getting the pellets that come in on the tidelines.  This will continue for quite a while, but if we can remove these from the beach (sweeping them up) before they end up back in the sea then that will be a good thing.

One of the goals of getting people out for an organised cleanup was to show them how it is done and to empower them to go out alone and find their own beach to clean.  There are so many beaches that need help and we can’t have organised cleanups on all of them.  But we can show people how to do it easily.  Grab a group of friends, head out to your local beach and get geared up for some ‘nurdling’!

For more information on which beaches to head out to and how to help please checkout these links …

http://www.facebook.com/PlasticDisasterHongKong

http://www.facebook.com/DBGreenHK

http://hongkongcoastwatch.blogspot.hk/

Cleaning up the Pellets

We have asked for as much help as possible from the government and the community to help us remove these plastic pellets from the beach.  The government has really stepped up their efforts and is concentrating the bulk of their manpower on the 2 areas that have the highest concentration of loose pellets and are inaccessible to most people.  There are also the usual government cleaning teams that are deployed to maintain the patrolled beaches.  They should have been briefed on cleaning up protocol but if anyone sees otherwise, please can you contact me so we can speak with the relavent department involved.

So here is the ‘How To’ guide for you.

Pellets on the sand are the easiest to remove just after high tide.

The sand will be firm and once the beach dries out a little, the pellets can be easily swept off with a dustpan and brush.

There are still a lot of beaches where the pellets are floating on the surface near the shore or are caught in rock pools.  These can be removed successfully with a pool skimming net or a large fine mesh fish net.  Kevin was on the beach yesterday morning and removed 15kg with this technique.

Unfortuantely with each day and each tide that passes, the concentrations of pellets on the shoreline decreases, so we need to get out there now and scoop them up.

For the rest of the nurdle trash mix, we just need to get that off the beach.  So with cotton or latex gloves scoop it all up off  the sand and into a garbage bag.  The bag can be deposited in the bin.  (If you can, recycle any plastic bottles or recyclable items)

If you see any full bags of pellets, please remove them to the high tide mark and contact me.  I will arrange for the FEHD to come and collect them.

Every little bit helps!  We have a cleanup organised for 2 days at 2 beaches tomorrow and Saturday in Discovery Bay – 9-12pm (North Plaza and Nim Shue Wan).  This is a good opportunity for people to participate in an organised cleanup – everyone is welcome.  There are lots of people taking on the initiative themselves to go down to their local beach or other beaches on Lantau, Lamma, Cheung Chau & Peng Chau,  to see the state of the beach and do what they can.  We have tried to learn as much as we can about the state of our beaches and direct people to ones that need cleaning but we don’t know about all the beaches.

Please grab your friends and family.  This is a really important time to help out.

Thanks.