There’s no doubt about it. Hong Kong has a huge waste problem. While the government deliberates over how to manage landfills and recycling programmes, a number of organisations are getting creative and tackling the issue head on. We sat down with three of them to learn more. The first one we take a look at is Plastic Free Seas (PFS)
Mission statement: Plastic Free Seas (PFS) is an environmental charity providing education on the issue of plastic marine pollution, from raising awareness of the problem and its effects to finding solutions, which everyone can be a part of.
How it started: Tracey Read is the founder of Plastic Free Seas. Her passion for the ocean started in 2007 with beach clean-ups in Discovery Bay. In the summer of 2012, she joined a research expedition sailing through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. During this four-week trip, seeing the plastic problem first-hand, she decided to start an organisation to provide education on this important global issue. Just after she returned, 150 tonnes of tiny plastic pellets entered the ocean and washed onto the beaches when six shipping containers fell off of a ship during a typhoon. Tracey played an integral role in the Hong Kong-wide, four-month-long clean-up operation, after which she began the process of creating the charity.
Education focus: In the organisation’s first year, 2,885 students were reached through school talks and other events, including a three-day youth conference with speakers from around the world. To date, PFS has reached more than 17,000 students.
In addition to working with students in schools, in 2015 the PFS Sea Classroom, a converted ex-fishing trawler, was launched. This education and research vessel allows PFS to bring students out onto the water to see the issue first hand. A typical trip includes a sea surface trawl, analysing the collected samples of microplastics and living organisms under microscopes, as well as various science tests, looking at water pH, temperature, salinity and clarity, and learning about the effects on the sea and its inhabitants due to changes in any of these factors. The coming school year will see an increase in the number of students visiting the Sea Classroom, as well as an expansion of the existing land education programme. Reaching more students in the local schools is a priority.
How to help: PFS’s main goal is to see a reduction in the amount of plastic entering the ocean. Everyone can make a difference – by changing personal behaviour, writing letters and taking action within their communities. For more ideas, go to plasticfreeseas.org. As a charity, PFS relies on donations to run the school programmes that are currently offered free of charge. You can also support them through twopresents.com.
Read the full article in June/July issue of Expat Living or in our E-mag here.
Interesting in learning about more charities in Hong Kong? Read our article Volunteer and education campaign for animal charity starts with Animals Asia founder.