Last week, I joined Ocean Conservancy (OC) in Hong Kong for their International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting. The global event, hosted by The Hong Kong Cleanup and Ecozine, brought ICC leaders and coordinators together to achieve the following goals:
- Celebrate 30 years of cleanups
- Share best practices from around the region
- Inspire greater coordination and communication between the regional network of cleanup partners
- Highlight innovative projects within the network
In celebration of 30 years of cleanups, we began the meeting by participating in a local beach cleanup. We hopped onto a bus and headed to the site, Stanley Beach. Once outside the city, the views of the coastline were stunning – in fact, when we arrived at the cleanup site, it was hard to imagine what awaited us on the beach below. We made our way down a steep, rocky path to the beach to find the shoreline covered in debris – in some spots, the debris was waist high. Although overwhelming at first, we split into teams and began to bag up the trash (making sure that we recorded all of our data in OC’s Clean Swell app). After about an hour and a half, we managed to collect over 60 large trash bags of debris.
Hong Kong, an autonomous territory of China, is one of the world’s most significant financial centers. It’s also one of the world’s most densely-populated states or territories with a population of over seven million people in 427 square miles; however, just a small portion of that area is developed.
In addition, Hong Kong’s waste output every day is substantial:
- Plastic bottles – > 1,368,000
- Plastic bags – > 1,000 tons
- Food waste – >3,200 tons
The challenges we witnessed in Hong Kong are far too common in other areas across the Pacific. Twenty-three representatives and leaders from across the region joined Ocean Conservancy staff members at the conference for three days of workshops, presentations and panel discussions focused on sharing best practices and identifying long-term solutions.
Workshops included small group breakout sessions focused on how we can increase our global impact and plans to improve regional communication in the future. Attendees presented on best practices and local accomplishments. Topics included Tools for Increased Impact, Effective Communications and Digital Strategies, Cleanup Innovation, Educational Programs, Putting Zero Waste into Practice, and Network Expertise.
Additionally, I joined Eben Schwartz, California Coastal Commission and Sivasothi N., University of Singapore for a panel discussion on “Turning Data into Policy,” where I shared experiences from our recently launched Balloon Ban program.
It was a pleasure to meet all of the other representatives at the meeting and learn about their incredible efforts to protect our oceans. I left Hong Kong truly inspired to do more with our marine debris efforts. I’m looking forward to follow-up discussions over the next few weeks to discuss potential new collaborations.