that old adage rings true again

Prevention is better than cure, we know it, but too often ignore it until it is too late. Over the last year or so, increasing evidence of plastic polluting the oceans has made global headlines, and now the plastic story is hitting home. A local study demonstrated that a popular local fish have been found having ingested plastic (RTHK) the study reports 60% of flat head grey mullet had ingested plastic. Granted it was a small study, but that does necessarily mean the results can be ignored.

Even bottled drinking water, sold on the basis of safer water, is under scrutiny revealing it is not just fish enjoying plastic diet. A study found plastic in the majority of bottled drinking water (BBC report), to which, the manufacturers responded there is no Standard, implying measurement, monitoring, controlling or limiting the quantity of plastic in drinking water is not needed. It’s a problem, standards are created retrospectively, we can’t create a new Standard for products that do not yet exist, in the case of bottled drinking water nobody, and that really means Govt., has been watching the store.

Abroad, some countries have started, somewhat belatedly, to act, and that will impact the thousands of manufacturers involved in the plastics business. In the UK outright bans are threatened for certain plastic products, an attempt to prevent further damage, but no word how the existing pollution in the environment will be removed from the oceans. 

What is interesting, the key motivator has not been green groups, the news reporting in the mainstream media has been instrumental, and highlighted these environmental issues, with shocking photos and videos circulated through social media. Justin Hoffman’s photo below is a good example.

It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?
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thanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick

A post shared by Justin Hofman (@justinhofman) on

Penguin Plastic Island from youtube video

It’s a new era, striking video and images, that have been circulated widely and easily through social media have motivated the public, in turn, pressured politicians into action.

On 18 April 2018, the UK Govt. announced its intention to ban plastic straws, plastic stirrers, and cotton buds using plastic, the latter because of the seahorse image, we might never know. 

Banning single-use plastic is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and avoids difficult waste management questions, how did that drinking straw or cotton bud leap from the consumer into the ocean. We know there are islands of floating garbage in worlds ocean, has seafill taken over the role of landfill? 

A shocking example must be the 2017 Floating Trash ‘Island’ Spotted in the Caribbean Sea Near Roatan #seafill (there is a video on youtube (https://youtu.be/GSMGKwZBaWM) Caroline Power’s video and images shocked the world showing the floating rubbish stretching for miles in the once pristine Caribbean waters (Telegraph article). Was this island of waste washed from the Caribbean land islands or seafill?

Floating Trash ‘Island’ Spotted in the Caribbean Sea Near Roatan Credit: Caroline Power and Caroline Power Photography #seafill

Of course, it’s on Facebook too, if you can bear it view more images https://www.facebook.com/carolinepowerphotography

Sadly, the fact remains, you have to admit we did it, and the damage is already done, the UK Govt. estimate there are 150 million tonnes of plastic waste already in the world’s oceans, the UK’s ban on micro-beads, single-use plastics today may help slow the disaster, but its not a cure.

E-Bus for Hong Kong? Not soon Enough

Hong Kong may have a new electric bus, sooner than you think. The new vehicle was spotted around town last week, outside HKPC in Kowloon Tong, and at the Eco Asia Expo 2015 exhibition.

Left to Right: Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Lyndia Hui (Green Council) and John A. Herbert (HAESCO)

Left to Right: Mr Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Ms Linda Ho (Green Council CEO) and John A. Herbert

Considering Hong Kong’s small area, this E-Bus must be killer app for Hong Kong’s urban pollution problems. I understand that many argue against EV’s because the rational is that EV’s merely move the pollution problem from our lungs to the distant electricity generating stations, and they claim that is a problem?

Repeated studies have shown the pollution at street level is often intolerable with excess PM2.5 PM10 and NOX. (nitrogen oxides). However, these power generating stations already have pollution control measures in place, and are discharged far from the lungs of busy pedestrians presently dodging the fumes in Central.

Burning diesel at street level should be a crime nowadays! Now we know, the diesel combustion (petroleum diesel not bio diesel) process the combustion is incomplete, and creates tiny microscopic soot particles, they are so small they are easily inhaled, hence the grave concern over particulates in the PM2.5-10 range. Hong Kong’s EPD in fact publish the monitoring data:
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/air/data/air_data.html

Screenshot - EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

Screenshot – EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

And the source of those PM2.5 and PM10 particulates? the overwhelming majority are created by diesel engine discharged at lung (street) level. Furthermore, I understand that the E-Bus creators (designed in Hong Kong!) have useful applications in mind for the ‘used’ batteries, to avoid creating another waste problem dealing with spent batteries. I had a tour, inside it looks like every other Hong Kong bus, in fact you would find it hard to distinguish between the diesel  version, except for the tailpipe.

Another sustainability perspective to consider, beside being conceived and designed in Hong Kong, it is manufactured close to home, avoiding the related emissions caused from importing buses from Europe which I understand is the usual practice.

Let us hope it is on the road, here in Hong Kong, sooner rather than later. One of Hong Kong’s key selling points must be the fantastic low cost, public transport system, but can it be improved? Of course, there is always room for improvement, as Paul Zimmerman points out, there are water taxi’s and ferries that would improve connectivity across the harbour, however the Hong Kong public transport system is one that many cities envy.

Hong Kong’s E-Bus was also featured by RTHK 

e-bus hong kong hkpc by RTHK

credit: RTHK

short link: bit.ly/hongkong-ebus

by John A. Herbert