- Title: Face masks add to waste mountain in Hong Kong
- Date: 12th March 2020
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (MARCH 7, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS CO-FOUNDER OF OCEANSASIA GARY STOKES PICKING UP FACE MASKS WASHED ONSHORE ON BEACH AT SOKO ISLANDS VARIOUS OF STOKES HOLDING FACE MASKS HE COLLECTED (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER OF OCEANSASIA, GARY STOKES, SAYING: "And it was only in our last visit on February 28th that we suddenly started noticing the surgical masks that people are wearing now with the coronavirus spreading. And we started noticing them on the beach in large numbers. And that day we counted 60 to 70, just on this one small stretch of beach. And that was quite alarming for us." VARIOUS OF OCEAN DEBRIS ON BEACH INCLUDING MASKS VARIOUS OF STOKES FILTERING SAND SMALL PARTICLES AND ORGANICS FILTERED OUT (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER OF OCEANSASIA, GARY STOKES, SAYING: "So marine debris is a threat to not just ourselves, but also the actual animals in the environment. We have seen all around the world, whales washing up with plastic bags, bottles and things in their stomachs. These masks are another, another addition, they are no better, no worse than the rest of the trash." VARIOUS OF STOKES PICKING UP FACE MASKS (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER OF OCEANSASIA, GARY STOKES, SAYING: "I would say every single one of us is responsible. Every single one of us who has bought a bottle of water, who has used a plastic straw, who has, you know, used the lunch box, polystyrene lunch box. Every single one of us is responsible. Every single of us can make a difference and make a change."
- Keywords: Hong Kong environmental activism face masks hong kong coronavirus ocean conservation ocean debris surgical mask
- Reuters ID: LVA001C4QVEBR
- Location: HONG KONG, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG, CHINA
- Country: Hong Kong
- Duration: 00:02:25
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Surgical masks are a common sight in urban Hong Kong, where residents have been stoked by fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
But now many of them are somehow washing up on the beaches of the territory's remote and uninhabited Soko Islands, and according to activists, are threatening the islands' fragile ecosystem.
"And it was only in our last visit on February 28th that we suddenly started noticing the surgical masks that people are wearing now with the coronavirus spreading. And we started noticing them on the beach in large numbers. And that day we counted 60 to 70, just on this one small stretch of beach. And that was quite alarming for us," said Gary Stokes, a co-founder of a marine conservation group OceansAsia.
Stokes has been collaborating with the University of Saint Andrew's Sea Mammal Research Institute to conduct a study on ocean trash on the Soko Islands. Stokes said he cleans up and discards the surgical masks he finds on Soko Islands beaches so that he can take into account how many new masks washed ashore during his next visits.
During his last few trips to the islands, Stokes found dozens of the ubiquitous surgical masks amongst the growing piles of waste, which he said floated in with the tides. He reckons some of the other debris probably dates back 20 to 30 years.
A few local residents who visited popular Repulse Bay for a beach excursion on Wednesday (March 11) said they made efforts to properly discard their own masks.
"It's not nice to just throw your mask on the ground. It's not hygienic and it may spread disease," said 60-year-old Sylvia Ng.
When the outbreak started just over the border, panic gripped Hong Kong residents and thousands joined daily queues to buy masks at retailers last month.
(Production: Yoyo Chow, Aleksander Solum)
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