I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
Life in Plastic
The government levy on plastic bags is beset with politics and loopholes, but it’s worth remembering why this issue is so vital. Local eco-hero Doug Woodring has founded Project Kaisei, a team of environmentalists, activists and scientists based in the US and right here in HK. The project aims to study and retrieve the millions of tons of plastic waste which has converged in the Pacific forming a ‘garbage vortex’. This toxic soup is estimated to be 1,200 times the size of Hong Kong, and it’s still expanding.
On August 2nd, the Kaisei team set sail to the ‘ocean gyre’ to complete toxicity checks, netting trials, scientific tests, wildlife studies and 3-D modelling to examine the depth of the debris (which could be hundreds of metres). The ultimate aim is to clear up the seaborne mess and press for change on land, as the trash ‘no-man’s land’ continues to kill marine life and infect the food chain.
As for the local bag levy, Doug admits it is a good, albeit belated, wake-up call but questions why fast-food drinks and newspapers still require plastic carriers. Despite contributing around 50% of the waste to the vortex, Asia is also the region doing the least to tackle the wider problem. Therefore, the group also wants to see legislation from higher up. “The UN admits there are no good policies on marine debris in the region,” says Doug, “we treat our oceans like a dump and it needs to stop.” It is ultimately land-based policies, initiatives and use which will have an effect.
I invite all readers to visit projectkaisei.org to support and monitor their progress, whilst forming good habits in reducing, recycling and reusing plastic will help make an impact. Also, write to Ocean Park and your local schools to encourage them to work alongside and raise awareness of this fantastically worthwhile, home-grown NGO.