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"Trash Tsunami" Chokes Beaches in Hong Kong

Jul 16, 2016 02:26 AM EDT
In Hong Kong, beach waste is washing ashore in unprecedented amounts, a manmade disaster that has come to be called the "trash tsunami."
(Photo : Joanna Boj)

A wave of trash has overwhelmed Hong Kong's beaches, and the residents are asking: where is all the garbage coming from? On July 10th, HK Chief Executive CY Leung and a group of cabinet officials joined workers in a cleanup of Lantau Island's shoreline, reported the New York Times. The waste pickers ended up clearing 3,000 pounds of debris.

That's a small fraction of the 85 tons of waste that cleaners have picked up from Hong Kong beaches in the first nine days of July alone - a manmade disaster that has been dubbed a "trash tsunami." But Gary Stokes, regional director of the environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said that the government has at least acknowledged that there is a great problem.

Trash on the beach is nothing new to Hong Kong, but this summer's deluge of garbage is unprecedented, choking beaches under mounds of food packaging, plastic bags and other waste matter. Stokes said that his environmental group began observing the unusual accumulation of debris in mid-June.

Not too long after, they learned of a possible source; Wailingding, a nearby island to the south of Hong Kong. They received photos taken by sailors depicting trash spilling from a huge dump on the island. Stokes posted the pictures on Facebook.

Other trash collecters have pointed fingers at mainland China. CNN reports that labels and packaging found by local cleaners indicate a mainland origin. Paul Zimmerman, a district councilor, cast the blame on "both legal and illegal dump sites on the mainland and in Hong Kong from which household waste washes into the sea."

Zimmerman informed the South China Morning Post that waste labels exhibited factory names and addresses, many of which could be traced to Guangdong Province in southeastern China. Even mpre telling: the badge of a Guangdong government official was found amid the waste.

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