The above photo shows a Hong Kong shopping mall on 7 July 2019 with a large plastic bottle recycling vending machine on the right and smaller containers for collection and recycling on the left.
But compare that with Shanghai, China, where a compulsory separation of waste law commenced on 1 July 2019, essentially requiring residents to separate all domestic waste, with fines for non-compliance [SCMP report]. At least initially it’s apparent that this new regulation will be rigidly enforced, and that could be just enough for behavior change and changing habits.
Although it does mean, that once again, Hong Kong finds itself lagging behind.
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 been making 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, often 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 the so called green groups, the 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 (link to his website https://www.justin-hofman.com)
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
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 microbeads, single-use plastics today may help slow the disaster, but its not a cure.