Monday, 23 April 2018

You May be Eating Microplastics

Microplastics like these end up in the stomachs of many local fish and seafood
Following yesterday's post about beach clean-ups around Hong Kong, Greenpeace says microplastics are found in 60 percent of a fish species called wild flathead grey mullet that is consumed by locals.

Researchers at the Education University of Hong Kong have found an average of 4.3 fragments of microplastics in each fish, with one ingesting up to 80 fragments. They come from plastic bottles, packaging, straws, cups and single-use cutlery that have been broken down in the ocean.

A locally caught flathead grey mullet in a restaurant
"Mudflats and sediments under the sea are like restaurants for marine species," says Greenpeace campaigner Chan Hall-sion. "When both of them are polluted with microplastics, that will become the food for the flathead grey mullet and other types of marine animals."

Chan says there are at least 170 marine species including mussels, lobster, silver herring and oysters that contain microplastics.

Last month, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's division of life sciences found that microbeads -- that can be found in items ranging from facial scrubs to toothpaste -- end up in the digestive tracts of fish and other marine creatures. This is not new, but confirms it's happening in Hong Kong.

And an even more mind-boggling statistic -- an earlier Education University study found Hong Kong beaches recorded an average of 5,000 pieces of microplastics per square metre -- 2.4 times higher than the concentration in the United States.

Some plastics that were found in the flathead grey mullet
If that's not enough impetus to get people to cut down on their use of plastic, I don't know what is. Some may say they don't eat local seafood, so who cares? But this is for the health of the oceans everywhere. We cannot afford to have marine life die around the world because we're dumping garbage into the world's oceans. Water travels everywhere.

There are so many small things we can do to drastically cut down on the amount of plastic we use -- like not buying bottled water, using reusable bags for groceries, not using disposable plates, cups and cutlery, and no straws.

How hard can it be to make these changes for the health of not only the planet, but us too?


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Earth Day? More Like Plastic Day

How does this mountain of garbage make Hong Kong look beautiful?
Today is Earth Day and some 1,500 people took part in beach clean-ups in Hong Kong and collected over 3,000kg of junk, most of it plastic. It included plastic bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic packaging, children's toys and cigarette lighters.

"I would say about 80 percent of what we picked up were plastic items that were only used once... and most of it was local," said Dr Robert Lockyer, director of operations at the AquaMeridian Conservation and Education Foundation, one of the groups organizing the major citywide beach clean-up.

The clean-ups were at Sai Kung, Lamma Island, Discovery Bay, Tai Po, Central and Sham Tseng.

Mainly one-use plastic items were collected on beaches
In recent months, some restaurants owned by expats have announced they are not using plastic straws anymore, and instead either using paper or metal straws, or none at all.

There is also a Facebook page that encourages people to write to restaurants, shops and grocery stores to complain about their excessive use of plastic packaging, and then post the letter on the social media site.

It's called A letter a day keeps the plastic away, and many people are posting their letters and responses from companies, but the replies are usually standard corporate ones that seem mildly concerned, but not much concrete action to rectify the situation.

Most expats and local Hong Kong Chinese who have lived abroad and are environmentally conscious, know too much plastic is bad for the environment. The focus should be on educating locals, Chinese restaurants and cha chaan tengs that they need to change their habits.

My friend YTSL regularly organises beach clean-ups and sometimes she can be demoralized when she cleans up a beach one week and then returns the following week only to see it covered in trash again.

Hong Kong's waste problem is growing every year
I try to be conscious about my grocery shopping -- using my own bag and when I'm out, carrying a thermos of water so that I don't need to buy a water bottle. But there are some people -- mostly men I have to say through observation -- who don't do either and don't think twice about paying HK50 cents for a plastic bag or buying a bottle of water.

The Hong Kong government really isn't doing enough to get people to use less plastic or legislate companies to use less packaging because the authorities aren't serious about protecting the environment.

In 2016, 10,345 tonnes of municipal waste was sent to landfills every day -- 1.8 percent more than the year before, though most of it was commercial rather than residential. Of this waste, 20 percent or 3,132 tonnes was plastic.

This has to stop soon because it is unsustainable. Is there no one else who understands this? Or is it because people are so reliant on domestic helpers to clean and cook that they are completely unaware of how much garbage they create?

Another day, another Earth Day. But environmental NGOs have more work to do to get the public and companies to understand waste is everyone's responsibility.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Picture of the Day: Congee Comfort Food

My lunch today -- thinly sliced fish congee with a plate of Chinese cabbage
One of the best places in Hong Kong to have congee is Sang Kee in Sheung Wan.

It's only open Monday to Saturday and there's often a line to get in. It has one main shop that is actually two giant rooms, and then down an alley is the original congee shop, where there is a giant vat where they make the rice porridge everyday.

I was in the area today around noon and decided to hit Sang Kee for lunch and managed to walk in for a seat by the window.

At first I was going to order beef brisket and noodles in a clear broth, but then changed my mind -- I'm trying to eat less meat -- so I asked for a small bowl of the sliced fish congee and a plate of poached Chinese cabbage.

The congee here really is comfort food -- it's creamy having been simmering for hours, and it arrives piping hot. The fish slices had no bones in them, very thin and the congee had lots of thinly sliced ginger in it.

It also comes with a small bowl of soy sauce with more ginger and spring onions. I dunked the ginger and spring onions in the soy sauce and put some in the congee to add a bit more flavouring as it's quite plain.

So good! There were lots of fish slices in there that were tender and combined with the creamy congee and spiced up with a bit of ginger was a great combination. If you are a fish expert, the fish head congee is a favourite.

A small bowl of congee was HK$32 and the plate of vegetables with oyster sauce was HK$19. When I was leaving, there was a line of hungry diners at the door.

Sang Kee
G/F, 10 Hillier Street
Sheung Wan
2541 1099

Friday, 20 April 2018

More Lecturing from Beijing

Qiao Xiaoyang says advocating independence is not freedom of speech
We welcome Qiao Xiaoyang to Hong Kong, but perhaps he didn't read the report on the results of a study done by City University the other day that concluded the rise of localism does not mean a lack of patriotism for China.

Qiao is a retired chairman of the national legislature's law committee, and he told 200 top local officials at a closed-door seminar today that he did not consider pro-independence calls to be freedom of expression, a fundamental right enshrined in the city's mini constitution.

But Hong Kong's Basic Law allows freedom of speech
One of the attendees was Ronny Tong Ka-wah, an adviser to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. He quoted Qiao as saying: "[Advocating independence] is hurtful to national feelings and contrary to the national constitution.

"Under the constitution, Hong Kong is a region under China's unitary system. So, Hongkongers have the duty to uphold the constitution and shouldn't do anything against the constitution and oppose the unitary system on the mainland."

You gotta love the argument that speaking out for democracy is "hurtful to national feelings". How is that even substantiated? That kind of news would be censored in Chinese media anyway so it wouldn't be hurtful to anyone.

Perhaps Qiao hasn't read Hong Kong's Basic Law? In Article 27 it says: "Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication, freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions and to strike".

Ronny Tong was one of 200 who heard Qiao's speech
But maybe no one at this seminar dared to point this out to him.

He also said while the central government would maintain a capitalist system in Hong Kong, it would be unconstitutional to "subvert the socialist system led by the Communist Party", said Wong Kwok-kin, a member of Lam's Executive Council.

Qiao is the second mainland representative within a week to speak at seminars on Hong Kong's constitutional order being part of China, following Beijing's liaison office director Wang Zhimin, who on Sunday hit out at local activists for challenging national sovereignty.

Statements like his continue to breed resentment against Beijing in Hong Kong... it also shows an utter lack of understanding of the city and its people, only expecting them to conform to its demands.

This inevitably leads to more tensions and conflicts that aren't going to get better anytime soon.