Local marine recreation businesses and groups conceived ways to reduce marine litter generated by the sector at the recent WWF “Marine Recreation Brainstorming Workshop” under the ECF Sea Without Litter project.


Several recurring themes emerged from feedback gathered from participants, which ranged from junk boat companies, diving companies, sailing and water sports groups.

“At boat parties, customers tend to forget which cup they were drinking from or where they placed it and use a new cup instead. More than 100 disposable cups can result from a single boat trip,” according to one participant.

Another common refrain: “There is virtually no recycle bins at major public piers at Sai Kung, Aberdeen and Central. Even if we do waste – sorting on our boats, we don’t know where to put them.”

While another says: “When we go for sailing activities and remind participants to prepare sufficient water, they often do so by buying bottled water rather than bringing their own reusable bottles.”

According to a government-commissioned study, marine litter in Hong Kong commonly increases starting from May and peaks in August1, coinciding with the peak season of marine recreational activities. Although rainfall also contributes to the problem by washing shore litter into the sea, leisure activities generate large quantities of marine litter.

WWF’s Sea Without Litter project, set up with support from the government’s Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF), encourages marine-related stakeholders to take a proactive role in reducing marine litter.

“Through our ECF Sea Without Litter program, we aim to engage the marine recreation sector to aid us in changing sector operations to reduce waste, encourage recycling and help us raise awareness on marine litter and our disposable culture to their customers and members,” said Patrick Yeung, WWF Project Manager, Oceans Conservation.“We have more than 30 groups joining our program and many more in support of us. It has been encouraging to know that awareness is rising within the sector and many are willing and prepared to change.”

One program participant, Hong Kong Yachting, was awarded the “Plastic-Free Transformation” Role Model Award for its efforts. In two of its boats, which receive more than 200 charters per year, the company replaced disposable plates, cutlery and serving trays with quality reusable ones. Water-dispensers were installed and single-use bottled water has been eliminated with no plastic bottled beverages provided. On-board waste is also sorted for recycling.

“Since these changes were adopted, we have cut eight rubbish bags of waste down to one bag for each of the two boats,” said Jessica Hargraves, Managing Director of Hong Kong Yachting.“It is also interesting to note that customers tend to abandon their canned beverages when they go lukewarm. We now provide cooler wraps for cans and 30 per cent less drinks are wasted as people tend to finish the whole can!”

The trend is catching on and a number of diving boats and junk boats are already using reusable and water dispensers,or have shown willingness to change if further support is provided by WWF. However, recycling boat waste remains a major issue as the lack of recycling facilities at piers provides no convenient outlet for recyclables. WWF is following up with relevant government departments to rectify that but progress will take time, which makes it important for customers to play their part by reducing waste and taking their recyclables with them to shore.

Diving Adventure, winner of the “Creative Waste Reduction” Role Model Award, has taken a step further by reducing other types of waste. It has worked with a charity group to encourage the donation of diving equipment from retired divers to re-use in diving courses for the disabled. It also installed solar panels on six of its boats to extend the lifespan of their batteries and reduce fuel usage.

Apart from boating activities, regattas, dragon boat festivals and water sports practices are held all year round, but summer time sees the highest gathering of these activities, generating large amounts of disposable plastic water bottles used by athletes.

Green Dragons Hong Kong, which is a collection of dragon boat teams, is the winner of our program’s “Member Involvement” Role Model Award. It is actively reaching out to members to pledge “ditch disposable” and to bring their own reusable water bottles to dragon boat practices and races. In addition, it supports regatta organizers efforts in switching to sustainable operations.

“The problem is that teenagers and young adults do not find bringing their own reusable bottle trendy,” said Suzanne Younan, founder of Green Dragons Hong Kong.“We have to start with education to promote “Reusable is Trendy” and encourage these age groups to ditch single-use plastics for the sake of our environment.”

To bridge the gap, the Life Front-Line Sailing Ministry, winner of the “Clean Sea Education” Role Model Award, is incorporating educational material provided by WWF into some of their regular sailing training courses, such as by including talks on marine litter and 30-minute-beach-cleanups. Several other water sports groups are following suit in trying to raise awareness among their own members and students.

“We look forward to more marine recreational groups joining our cause and doing what they can. But at the same time, we as customers and visitors of the sea must learn to take up the responsibility for our own litter,” said Patrick Yeung. “It takes changes in habits on all fronts, customers and businesses alike, to reduce waste generation and keep our seas clean.”

More details about the ECF Sea Without Litter:


  1. Mott MacDonald (2015). Investigation on the Sources and Fates of Marine Refuse in Hong Kong.
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