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Beach Clean up – WWF, ABC, SCDC, OMG

Shek Pai Wan, no Turtle cove, no Shek Pai Wan

The prequel for the trip was a presentation by WWF and a shortened version of “A Plastic Ocean”. This covered the global problem of plastic waste entering the seas on a enormous scale daily; the problems it was causing in the environment especially the impacts on various species ingesting plastic and dying as a result, together with impacts on the food chain. The plastic can last decades or millennia in certain conditions and this is in turn being ingested in the food we eat. We had a talk on the local impact of plastic in Hong Kong and the measures and lobbying to improve the environment. The beach clean up was just one part of the improvement, however temporary, to make at least one beach better for a while. The talk was well attended and included some debate on the slow uptake of measures to improve the environment locally, better education, investment and resources to make Hong Kong both an example of a better place and healthier place to live.

On Saturday we joined up with the ABC and WWF for a beach clean up on Lamma. Lamma needs all the help it can get, so it wasn’t a problem to turn up and do a little tidying up for Paul and his neighbours. We had over 40 people on the boat and set off on time for Shek Pia Wan. The wind direction and tide meant we couldn’t get on the pier, so we headed to Turtle Cove (Sham Wan) for plan B and an alternative beach clean. On the boat we had a few talks on the job in hand and the reason for the day out. Plastic and garbage is unsightly and harmful to the environment, so our band of volunteers could hopefully make some impact on just one beach.

On arrival several waves hit the beach by launch, only to find it was reasonably clean. After a short recce and clean, it was decided that we could trek across the island and still clean Shek Pai Wan. The path leading between each beach had plenty of dropped litter beyond the high water mark and along the path. We managed to part fill several bags before the start at beach two, with a noticeable increase in garbage approaching the small village in the bay well above the water line…. We concentrated from the pier and eastward along the beach. It was clear this had not received any attention for some time.

The work began. With the grace and flexibility of an India yoga instructor, many volunteers were able to bend and pick with ease. Then there was the other category of creaking, inflexible and aged, groaning and cracking volunteers, grunting with each cursed plastic fragment or object retrieved. There was also too much gluteus maximus cleft on show. Workers fine, workers bottom, not so fine. The majority of the rubbish was polystyrene or various sizes, fishing rope, line and paraphernalia , plastic bottles and other floating detritus. After a while the litter picking became trance-like, with the soft murmurs of the inflexible , the gentle lapping of the waves, the boom of fog horns or the whine of drones following the action.

In these moments, my mind wandered and the more interesting items started to lift the mundane of another bon aqua bottle or iced tea carton. Spike Milligan wrote the narrative for “another lot”. This is a list of items sent for fictitious auction, but given enough time, perhaps one item would be washed ashore for collection. The redux version includes - One imitation marble wash-stand with purification dish and fish attachment, One anti-burglar, self-preservator head bludgeon, sand-filled and hand-sewn brown leather, One stuffed Gallapagos giant turtle on wheels, with clockwork revolving eyes, Seven and a half pairs of brown damask curtains, with foam rubber lining. Well known in Belgravia, Two volumes on how to wean vultures, One volume on how to leave vultures alone, Fourteen man mounted ivory monkeys, cut from single wrought iron elephant tusk, and signed Jim Yakamoto of Leeds. Unfortunately the day was not improved with a miracle find of one of these items. However we did find a rubber duck, a dolls arm, Chinese aphrodisiac medicine, syringe ampules, a platform sandal, a lighter from an “establishment” in Shenzen and a plastic spade, various ointments and applicators among other objects.

The eastern side of the beach and above the tide line was full of rubbish. Fish boxes, polystyrene, hundreds of plastic bottles and the flotsam of several days out on the beach. There was also evidence of one too many barbecues, leaving their charcoal bags, beer and soft drink cans, food and plastic plates, chopsticks and spoons. All of which was within 100 metres of a bin. We officially stopped collection around 1230 and managed 74 black bags and a dozen other items too large to fit. All of which was stacked away from the beach and weighed in at an impressive 325 Kg for a few hours work. There was still a lot of rubbish left on the beach, but we had at least made a dent.

Post collection, we headed off for lunch and some ironic seafood. Most of us had worked up a fair appetite and thirst, so it went down well. We were all finished by 4 pm and back at the ABC for 5. A big thanks for all the volunteers. The support from the ABC and the volunteers from the boat club. The WWF and their organisation and education. Finally SCDC who turned out in numbers, thanks to our own organiser “ Chief Butt crack” Alex.

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