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© 2020 by Sophie Pettit

The Dirty Truth Behind Hong Kong Trash

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

Absolute garbage! Born and raised Hong Konger Ryan Keller reveals the shocking reality of waste in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong generates more than 10,000 tonnes of rubbish each day – the equivalent of six Olympic swimming pools. If you find this hard to believe, then just take a look at this drone video created by 26-year-old born and raised Hong Konger, Ryan Keller.

Curious to explore Hong Kong’s beautiful natural landscapes with his newly purchased DJI Mavic Drone and GoPro, Keller set out to create a “feel good” video capturing his favorite spots from above. What he actually captured, however, is far from pretty.


When he returned home to edit footage of his paddle boarding adventure at Big Wave Bay, he was horrified to discover that he had been surrounded by a sea of trash. This shocking realisation proved to be the turning point for Keller, who decided there and then that something needed to be done. He reached out to childhood friend, filmmaker Ben Robertson-Macleod, who was also raised in Hong Kong and upon seeing the ugly footage, immediately wanted to help.


The two of them set about creating the informative video, HK Wasteland, uncovering the truth behind the unspoken problem of waste pollution that Keller believes is largely “going unnoticed”. At the same time, they aim to raise awareness of the work that is currently being done by a small but powerful community of people fighting for change, despite reluctance from the Government to identify the cause and find long-term solutions.

Fighting for Change


One such advocate for change is beach side resident Moran Zukerman who took it upon himself to gather up waste from the shoreline of Sam Pak Wan in Discovery Bay, culminating in a collection of hundreds of syringes, vials of blood, and other medical waste within a six month period. In the video Keller explains how Zukerman passed the waste collection over to the Environmental Protection Department for investigation, only to receive a letter a few months later informing him that they had dropped the case as they could not determine the source of the waste.


As it happens, Zimmerman said it was “very easy to identify where it came from” as the waste had labels displaying the factory name and address, many of which were Guangdong addresses with simplified Chinese characters. “It’s tragic that the Government is just sitting watching it happen with no follow up or legitimate investigation into beaches like Sam Pak Wan,” says Keller. “When I was filming there were kids running around on the beach with syringes on it – it was unbelievable how it has all been ignored.”


Keen to have a balanced view on the issue, Keller set about identifying the stark comparison between Hong Kong’s gazetted and non-gazetted beaches (i.e. those which are announced by the Government as “bathing beaches” and cleaned several times a day by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD).


“A typical Hong Kong person would visit a gazetted beach which looks beautiful and clean because it’s cleaned regularly by the Government, but what they rarely see is the shocking state of non-gazetted beaches such as “Trash Bay” (next to Cape D’Aguilar) which is notorious for its sheer volume of waste”, Keller explains.

Not the usual beautiful drone footage we’re used to seeing in Hong Kong.

Keller explains that while it can’t be denied that much of the waste is coming down the Pearl River Delta from China, it is evident – judging by the company logos found on the packaging – that a lot of it is also from Hong Kong.

With the city’s three landfill sites set to reach capacity in 2020, and no alternative solutions yet found, the clock is definitely ticking. The Government now admits that there is a waste crisis in Hong Kong, yet there is no sign of urgency on the agenda when it comes to tackling the crisis head on. So what can be done?


So How Can You Help?


Aside from the medical waste, which is a separate issue the Government needs to address, there are simple solutions that Hong Kongers can take to help reduce the problem. The main focus is to reduce single use plastics and styrofoam waste (plastic bags, water bottles, straws, and styrofoam etc), as follows:


  • Buy a water filter – for example Brita, but an even better solution would be to buy Kishu Charcoal or any charcoal water filter, which is plastic free and allows you to just use tap water

  • Buy a water bottle – e.g. nalgene, hydroflask etc, so you don’t rely on water bottles from supermarkets and you can use your water filter to fill up the water bottle on a daily basis

  • Buy a non single use plastic bag to hold your groceries, or if you forget your grocery bag, buy a small enough amount of groceries that you can carry it all without a bag

  • Don’t use a straw – if you go to Starbucks just ask for your drink without the lid and no straw

  • Try to eat out at a local restaurant for lunch to avoid styrofoam takeaway boxes and styrofoam cups

  • Recycle your waste – click here to find out how

Here are some other simple ways you can reduce waste both at work and at home. You can also follow HK Wasteland on Facebook and get in touch with the following organisations which are dedicated to helping the situation.


Organisations Dedicated to Trash Reduction

Oceanic Ocean Recovery Alliance Sea Shepherd Hong Kong Global Alert Last Straw Movement 創建香港 Designing Hong Kong #Trashthecheckout Plastic Free Seas Living Lamma Hong Kong Cleanup / 清潔香港 Ecozine: Your go-to guide for smarter living


Keller concludes, “Without the drone, I (like many Hong Kongers) probably would have just kept turning a blind eye to the issue of waste pollution in Hong Kong, but the reality is, the problem will only get worse unless we make a conscious decision to change our every day behaviour. We hope this video will begin a social movement of like-minded individuals to change their habits for the sake of our planet and our home.”

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