Just when we thought Hong Kong had all the mayhem it could handle with illegal trellises, plagues of Mainland locusts, the fiercest typhoon in a decade, sweltering temperatures, record-breaking air pollution, government ministers’ wives’ companies’ subdivided apartments and Maoist ‘national education’ brainwashing for kids, the city is buried in a tidal wave of 28.6 trillion tiny plastic balls washed up on shorelines after falling off a ship during the aforementioned tempest.
The things are technically called nurdles or, more charmingly, mermaids’ tears; they are readily available (20 tons minimum order) and are used to make things like bottles. The amount reaching Hong Kong’s beaches is probably just a small fraction of the total quantity released, which itself is of course a tiny percentage of the plastic junk already floating around in our long-suffering planet’s oceans. So all you can really do is give the volunteers sweeping them up a pat on the back, wait for the rest of the pellets to get washed or blown away and leave it at that.
But that wouldn’t be any fun. What activists on our outlying islands want is environmental devastation to put on YouTube. Ladies and gentlemen: the Great Hong Kong Plastic Disaster of 2012, complete with doom-laden music. They are also demanding the immediate establishment of a Tiny Plastic Ball Early Warning System, so the city can prepare its defences against future inundations of pellets. The campaigners concede that the things are not radioactive, explosive or even poisonous – in fact, these are the most boring tiny plastic balls ever devised by mankind. The things are so inert that even middle-class Discovery Bay housewives will go to the beach and clean them up. However, apparently they act like a sponge and soak up nasty chemicals like insecticides and carcinogens. Which sounds like a good thing but of course isn’t. Officials have been sent out to Lantau and Cheung Chau to squat on beaches, roll a few pellets carefully between the fingers and look very serious.
And the trauma continues. According to the radio this morning, the government is warning well-intentioned beach-sweepers: if you feel a sort of crunching beneath your feet as you wade through the white plastic drifts, that’ll be rare, new-hatched baby turtles you’re stepping on (the sort you see on TV nature shows struggling valiantly to reach the sea). Whatever calamity can strike the Big Lychee next?
Maybe here’s a clue…
Thought for the day (as we return to reality and note the Centa City property market index’s latest high last Friday): “Kevin Walsh, after retiring from the Board of the Federal Reserve last year, revealed that central banks are now influencing asset prices so heavily that investors are unable to ascertain market value.” (Henley Outlook investment newsletter)