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FEATURE STORY May 31, 2019

Meet the Innovator Battling Plastic Waste in China: Liu Yonglong

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Marine plastics have put our oceans in danger. By 2050, it is estimated the volume of plastic will be greater than that of fish in the sea. Countries in East Asia and the Pacific contribute the most to marine plastic pollution. For World Oceans Day 2019, we are shining a spotlight on innovators working to stem the tide of marine debris in the epicenter of this crisis.

Liu Yonglong is the founder of Rendu Ocean, a non-profit organization in mainland China that focuses on marine debris. Their activities include work to clean up marine debris, monitoring and research, supplemented by environmental education and working with NGOs.

 

Tell us about yourself, and your project.

I graduated from the Law Department of Fudan University. When I was at university, I joined and organized student organizations, which was the beginning of my public service work. After graduation, I worked in a state-owned enterprise and continued to participate in public service activities.

Since 2013, I have been working at Rendu Ocean full time and focus on marine environmental protection.

Shanghai Rendu Ocean NPO Development Center (or Rendu Ocean for short) is a non-profit organization in mainland China that focuses on marine debris issues. It was founded in 2007 and registered as private non-profit in 2013.

Our activities include work to clean up marine debris, monitoring and research, supplemented by environmental education and working with NGOs. We have worked extensively in cooperation with Chinese and international NGOs, and are one of the most active promoters of sector-wide cooperation and development.

Our goal is to be one of the most professional NPOs in the area of marine debris in China.

How is plastic waste an issue for oceans/waterways in China?

The high efficiency and low cost of plastics make it a widely accepted and commonly used material in the manufacturing sector around the world. As the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier, China is inevitably one of the major producers of plastic products. With a large population, China is also one of the largest consumers of plastics. China has vast sea areas from the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea to the East and South China Sea, and many rivers enter these seas. People everywhere in the world like to live near water. The coastal areas and river basins usually have a high concentration of population and economic activities.

At the same time, many populous countries in the East Asia and Pacific border on the seas. As a result, the plastic waste generated by human activities near these seas poses a pressure and challenge to the marine environment and its eco-systems.

Therefore, the ocean is indeed a common good of humanity.

When did you first get involved in trying to address this issue?

When I was working in a state-owned enterprise in 2001, I spent my spare time on public service work. I initiated an environmental NGO then. In 2007, with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the State Environmental Protection Administration, Rendu Ocean organized our first beach cleanup. It was my first time getting involved with marine debris. From then, I started paying attention to the problem, and have gradually made it an organizational and personal mission to deal with it.


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What do you hope your work can achieve?

The vision of Rendu Ocean is: Restore a clean ocean, restore the friendly relationship between man and ocean.

Most marine debris come from human activities on land. And there are two ways to reduce them: reduce the amount of waste entering the sea and clean up the waste in the sea.

Rendu Ocean is currently doing the latter, and we hope to get more people to join our coastal cleaning actions. Similarly, we also hope that through our beach cleaning activities, as well as through monitoring and research of marine debris issues, combined with effective environmental education, we will influence attitudes and behaviors to reduce the amount of waste entering the sea at their source.

What motivates or inspires you?

I am from Ningxia, an inland province in northwestern China. For someone who grew up in the countryside, the sea was really like a poetic and far-away place. It’s blue, pure, transparent and beautiful. But when I eventually came to a coastal city and stood on a beach, I saw the trash on brought by the sea tide or wave, and I just wanted to clean it up.

Environmental protection has become a major issue affecting the whole world, and a responsibility of every individual. Every one of us has the responsibility to act. Then, first of all, I myself have to act and keep doing what I am doing.

How can people get involved?

In the face of marine debris, society and mankind need systematic solutions. Every social entity, government, business, individual, CSO, media and school can find what it can do.

Individual actions are the most important here. Everyone starts from their own daily life. The root cause of marine debris is poor waste management. Therefore, first of all, manage your own waste well. Secondly, practicing the ‘five Rs’ (refuse, reuse, repair, refill, recycle) is important. By refusing all kinds of plastic products and eliminating the source of marine debris, we can at least reject unnecessary disposable plastic products. Third, we need to be more proactive in advocating and encouraging other people, businesses and even the government to act on reducing plastic waste.

What is the one change you’d like to see every person in China make to reduce plastic pollution?

Come and join us in cleaning up trash on the beach! I believe that if you come once, you will be impacted by the marine debris problem, and it will make you change and act, even if for a little bit.

 



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