Cover Beach near Pan Long Wan

We spent a morning clearing trash near Clearwater Bay as part of Hong Kong's Adventure Clean Up Challenge, but it was only a drop in the ocean.

There’s nothing like being up and active on a beautiful Sunday morning to make you feel positive and optimistic; even more so when you are preparing to clean up one of Hong Kong’s beaches. So my colleagues and I were in good spirits as we applied sunscreen and insect repellent, put on our fetching Adventure Cleanup t-shirts, donned our gloves, and started our adventure last Sunday. 

Alongside our busy jobs, we had been planning our excursion for a few weeks. We’d sourced gloves and mesh bags. We’d talked about logistics and safety. And yes, we’d talked––a lot––about where we would get lunch and a cold beer afterwards. But most importantly we’d found a clean up site.

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Hong Kong’s easily accessible beach sites are regularly cleaned by government services and community groups. The Adventure Clean Up Challenge is about paying attention to the coasts and cliffs that are harder to reach, and where trash has been accumulating for years. After dismissing some sites as too easy, we settled on a small pebbled beach near Pan Lon Wan, accessed by a 15-minute hike that requires ducking under tree branches, and walking across a small flimsy bridge made of what looks like a repurposed flooring board.

Arriving on the beach, and seeing the sheer amount of waste strewn across it, put a dent in our spirits: our small team could have spent the entire weekend on the beach, and still not have collected all the waste around us. And hauling all that waste back up the narrow path to the village would have taken another weekend.

Undeterred, we decided which parts of the beach to focus on, and got cleaning. The fine weather and healthy stock of water and snacks helped, but it was hard work. Occasionally we would stop and call over a teammate to point out a particularly remarkable item of waste, or ask if anyone wanted a snack, or swear to never again buy a single-use plastic bottle. More often, though, we would ask ourselves, “with so much trash on this stretch of coast and so many others, are we really making a difference?”

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We could have spent the entire weekend on the beach, and still not have collected all the waste around us
Tatler's Adventure Clean Up team

In a few hours, we collected the equivalent of 40 refuse bags - nearly half of it bulky plastic bottles. A drop in the ocean perhaps, but a start. Along the way to the trash collection point we told villagers what we were up to. We’ve posted on social media, and told our friends and families. And we’re spreading the word within Tatler, to raise awareness of the problem of waste pollution, and highlight the ways we can all help. 

Cleaning up a hard-to-reach beach is clearly one way of helping, and an active and enjoyable one too. But as I picked up what must have been my 100th plastic bottle, I realised that the actions we all take every day are even more important. Behind every discarded plastic bottle, washed-up polystyrene food container, forgotten mahjong tile, and lost beach ball is a person and a story.

And by cutting out single use plastic, recycling, choosing brands with less plastic packaging, and many other small things, each of us, every day, has the power to change that story.

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