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Will 2019 Hong Kong dragonboat season be plastic free?

Two months after launching their Paddle without Plastic campaign, we are celebrating a promising start to the 2019 Dragon Boat Festival season: 43 teams have taken the Pledge to reduce plastic waste while dragon boating and 5 festivals have already demonstrated great efforts to reduce plastic waste generated during race days.

Suzanne Younan, founder of Green Dragons HK, shares how grateful she is for such a strong support and commitment from local and international clubs as well as corporate dragon boat teams. “This is our second year of action in the Hong Kong dragon boat community. It is very encouraging to see more than 1,500 paddlers coming together from Lantau, Lamma and Hong Kong Islands to Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O areas, changing their habits to ditch disposable plastic. They shout out to the world that everyone can take action against plastic pollution!

On March 30th, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club kicked off the race season with the Middle Island Cup. They set the tone for plastic free event standards that other festival organisers have matched.

The Lamma500 on April 14th, Repulse Bay Short Boat Race on April 21st, DB Lovers race in Sai Kung on April 28th and Stanley Warm Up Races on May 4th all provided water boys for the paddlers to refill their reusable water bottles rather than distributing single use plastic bottles (SUP). This reduces considerably the amount of plastic waste discarded during a race day, as a festival with 50 teams can distribute up to 3,000 single use plastic bottles per day.

Those festivals also collaborate with NGOs such as The Green Earth or with local city council waste management teams to set up recycling stations and plastic collection.

Some festivals, like Lamma500 and Middle Island Cup, VRC Regatta, take their plastic-free commitment to another level by selecting food and beverage suppliers ready to implement a reusable cup deposit scheme, use cardboard options rather than Styrofoam containers and single use plastic cutlery, and offer canned beverages over plastic bottled ones.

 "We have been operating single use plastic free for 5 years now. The amount of waste has dropped considerably. Teams who come to compete at Lamma500 are used to this and their paddlers bring reusable bottles. It’s a simple switch.  During the team captains briefing, we make sure we communicate our ambition to go single use plastic free and how they can do their part“ shares Brad Tarr from Lamma500.

Despite the efforts made by the festivals, we still see evidence of teams ignoring the impact of their single use plastic choices.  There is still a lot to do to help teams to change habits and welcome them into our community.

Our team was already avoiding single use plastic when we met Green Dragons HK. Pledging was an easy decision!  We are happy to help spread the message. We must make it a standard in our sport!” says Francis Tang, Team captain for Top Express J-Dragons training out of Tseung Kwan O and manager of website.

Now that major festivals have taken steps to reduce single use plastic waste, Green Dragons HK continues to promote this message to more than 300 dragon festival organisers from May to August and 500 dragon boat teams across Hong Kong with a target to eradicate 300,000 SUP bottles.

On June 7th, 10 locations across Hong Kong will be celebrating Tuen Ng Festival holding dragon boat races with more than 20,000 paddlers competing. The opportunity to save Hong Kong from hundreds of thousands of SUP bottles being deposited in the landfill is not to be missed! The Environmental Protection Department (EPD), via their green event team, is calling all festival organisers to reduce single use plastic waste on this day and choose more sustainable options. They invite event organisers to take the ‘Green Event Pledge’ and commit to the Green Event Guide Book best practices. (link to EPD page)

The world-class Victoria Harbor International Dragon Boat Race (IDBR) held on June 14-16th, is gathering hundreds of dragon boat teams from Hong Kong and across the globe. The race is an iconic international event. Let’s hope they will rise to the occasion and achieve a zero-plastic event, just like the London Marathon held in 2019!

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