Following back-to-back tropical storms over the past week, Hong Kong’s beaches have been left strewn with debris.
Typhoon Hato was the first T10 storm to hit the city since 2012, leaving flooding and destruction in its wake last Wednesday. Soon after, Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar brought the city another bout of strong winds and heavy showers.
The latest wave of pollution to swamp the city’s beaches comes after a shipping collision on August 3 caused approximately 1,000 tonnes of palm oil to spill into the sea and wash ashore.
Previously, environmentalists and conservationists had warned that high concentrations of the oil may be hazardous to small children or animals upon ingestion.
Local conservationist and Lamma resident Robert Lockyer told HKFP that, while Typhoon Hato had washed marine pollution off the beaches and into the ocean, Tropical Storm Pakhar had pushed the debris back onto the shores.
He said that the typhoons had exacerbated the effects of the earlier palm oil spill.
“At the moment, every beach is a disaster. We have palm oil, we have old plastic, new plastic, drift nets that were sitting on the bottom of the ocean that have now washed up to the top of the beach. There’s been a lot of polystyrene that’s normally in the bushes, but because of strong winds, have been blown onto the shore,” said Lockyer.
Lockyer said that aside from marine garbage, organic matter such as branches and leaves had also begun to mix with the pollution on the shores, making beaches more difficult to clean.
“Leftover palm oil from the spill has also caused the trash on the beach to become oily. In the afternoon, when temperatures drop, pollution that is covered in oil becomes tacky and sticky – plastics and oil have also begun to clump together, sticking together with the sand, making it heavy and harder to move away from the beaches.”
Lockyer said that the government had sent cleaners to public beaches, but that that the magnitude of pollution made clean-up efforts difficult.
“Hong Kong’s got over 800 kilometres of coastline, so with two typhoons coming at the same time, it’s not easy,” said Lockyer.
“More collaboration between environmental groups – Hong Kong has some of the best environmental minds out there – in a disaster like this would be ideal.”
Since the weekend, volunteers and local residents have been participating in clean-ups to clear the city’s shores.