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Your guide to beach-cleaning in Hong Kong

By Lily Valette 30 November 2023

Header image courtesy of Rosanna Valette

The numbers are in: In Hong Kong, we create 16,000 tonnes of trash on a daily basis, and five million plastic bottles end up in (already full) landfills every day. It does not take a math genius to gather that this is too much to handle for our little corner of paradise—and a big chunk of our disposable rubbish ends up in the ocean.

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Sai Wan Beach, Sai Kung. Photo: Rosanna Valette

It is mostly easy to ignore this issue. Years of seeing images of plastic-infested waters on the news and on social media has somehow desensitised us to the matter, and public beaches in Hong Kong are cleaned by officials every day. But appearances can be deceptive, and visiting a non-gazetted beach might offer a more realistic take on the amount of trash that is being washed up on our coasts by currents.

Thankfully, there are many ways to get involved in beach-cleaning in Hong Kong! Whether you are looking to make an impact, want to learn more about the topic, or are interested in being a part of a community, there is a way for you to help. Read on for more information.

Join a beach clean-up

Photo: Hong Kong Cleanup (via Facebook)

Hong Kong Cleanup

Founded in 2000, Hong Kong Cleanup acts as an events coordinator advocating for our coasts’ protection. Starting up as a beach-cleaning initiative, the NGO has extended its intervention scope to the entire Hong Kong territory (including coasts, streets, and country parks).

Hong Kong Cleanup’s founding principles are community-driven. As well as the obvious goals of trash-collecting and tracking, the organisation also wants to actively involve citizens in their action plan, and heighten awareness of the fact that individuals play a big role in environmental conservation. Its outlook on clean-ups is to inspire positive behavioural change.

Due to its lasting presence and positive impact, Hong Kong Cleanup is well established—it is therefore a natural intermediary for international peers, too. Among many international campaigns relayed by Hong Kong Cleanup, the organisation has been the local coordinator for Ocean Conservancy’s “International Coastal Clean-up” annual challenge for decades, and has been promoting the “#TeamSeas” crowdfunding project in our region.

To join in on Hong Kong Cleanup’s coastal clean-up challenge, there are many options. If you are an individual looking to participate, you can check out the weekly schedules on Instagram, or RSVP to join a clean-up here. The NGO, however, specialises in company events, helping to organise impactful team-building events. You can email your proposal to [email protected].

Photo: Plastic Free Seas (via Facebook)

Plastic-Free Seas

Plastic-Free Seas is laser-focused on educating us about issues created by ocean and beach pollution, how to remedy them, but also how to avoid them in the first place. In action since 2013, PFS puts a playful spin on its mission while raising awareness of the actual rescue operation it is on.

A big part of participating in a beach clean-up is the immediate positive impact you have, but the activity is also a great instigator for long-term change. Picking up plastic bottles, straws, and other objects we see and use every day, washed up by the sea, is an instant wake-up call! As PFS reminds us, even five minutes spent collecting litter can make a difference for our oceans.

To join in, Plastic-Free Seas and Hands On Hong Kong host a monthly beach clean-up in Discovery Bay. You can check out the calendar and sign up here. Expansive and free lesson plans to teach children about plastic marine pollution are available here. PFS also specialises in working with schools to educate and share.

To keep track of all the beach-cleaning events happening in Hong Kong, you can check out this calendar, frequently updated by the government organisation Clean Shorelines.

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Photo: Ocean Conservancy

Organise your own beach clean-up

There is no need to wait for the next organised beach clean-up event to get started—every piece of rubbish picked up helps. However, there are a few things you should know about when venturing out alone, or with friends and family.

Safety first

You don’t need to go far to find trash on our coasts. It is best to pick a beach you know is easily accessible. Secondly, germs and chemicals are not to be messed with. Wear closed-toe shoes and gloves! Bring water (preferably in a reusable bottle), a hat, and sunscreen for extra care.

Make it official

If you register your beach clean-up with Clean Shorelines, not only will the team provide you with the gloves and rubbish bags you’ll need, but it can also help you figure out how and where to dispose of the trash you collected.

Useful apps

Photo: Nature Rescue (via App Store)

Nature Rescue

Developed by Green Power, a local NGO committed to protect the local environment since 1988, Nature Rescue is a countryside and coastal clean-up mobile app. On the Nature Rescue app, you can browse and sign up to clean-up events, report piled up rubbish you encounter, and organise clean-ups with the community of users. Download the app here.

Clean Swell

Clean Swell is Ocean Conservancy’s trash-tracking mobile app. With Clean Swell, you can record your beach clean-up sessions, where you went, what you found, and share the data with the world. It is not only a great way to collect information, but Clean Swell also tracks your effort the way a running app would—it is the nudge some of us need these days to finally take action. Download the app here.

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A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean is a Hong Kong-based charitable foundation that works with scientists, scholars, and more to change the ways in which we dispose of plastic, put a stop to marine plastic pollution, and save the oceans’ biodiversity.

The folks at A Plastic Ocean are behind an eponymous award-winning documentary promoting a “wave of change.” Hong Kong, as the NGO reminds us, is a coastal region that is almost entirely surrounded by water! Taking action with APO is a way to reconnect with an ocean that is a big part of our landscape and our downtime.

A Plastic Ocean, in collaboration with the UN, is aiming to collect a minimum of one tonne of trash from our beaches every year. Its “Ghost Net Hunting Unit” also organises impressive ocean clean-up diving sessions. To donate, click here.

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Lily Valette


Born and raised in the French countryside, Lily arrived in Hong Kong looking for an adventure. Passionate about books, she spent some time in Parisian publishing houses and is the author of an illustrated book about hair. Life in Hong Kong for her entails looking for seaside places to eat and a lot of hiking.