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Marine & Beach Refuse: Background Paper

by Peggy Yung

August 2001

Civic Exchange Room 601, Hoseinee House, 69 Wydham Street, Central, Hong Kong Tel: 2893-0213 Fax: 2575-8430

Floating Refuse



1. Background


2. Sources of Floating Refuse


3. Marine Debris Survey 1996 – 1997


4. International Coastal Cleanup


5. Clean Hong Kong Campaign – Government’s Scheme


6. Clean Environment Campa ign


7. Conclusion


Appendix I: Breakdown of Littoral & Sea Refuse collected In Joint Clean-up Operations with FEHD in 2001


Appendix II: Daily Average Cost for Cleaning Ungazetted Beaches And Coastline in Joint Clean-up Operations with FEHD in 2001


Appendix III: Debris collected at LCSD beaches from January to November 2000


Appendix IV: Total quantity of floating refuse collected at various gazetted Beaches from March to October 1999


Appendix V: Total quantity of floating refuse collected at gazetted beaches From March to October 1998


Appendix VI: Principal Material Types


Appendix VII: The Twenty most Commonly found items


Appendix VIII: Sources of marine debris recorded during HKMCS survey



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Floating Refuse



paper was originally prepared for internal discussion when the Clean Environment Campaign (CEC) was being set-up in order to have a better understanding of the sources of Hong Kong marine refuse so that CEC could design a strategy to reduce the problem. 1 This paper has now been updated and includes the CEC’s early efforts to help reduce marine rubbish. Background Floating refuse has been a problem for Hong Kong for many years and rapid economic growth and increasing population exacerbate the problem. A wide variety of floating refuse can be found inside the beach boom line and some even on the beaches. In 1999, the HKSAR Government collected 12,000 cubic metres of floating refuse from beaches (Appendix IV). In 2000, 20,120.46 tons of debris was collected from Hong Kong’s beaches.2 (Appendix III). I. Sources of Floating Refuse A portion of the floating refuse in beach water appears to be brought in by wave and tides from open waters. The amount of floating refuse brought in depends on wind and current direction. For example, on-shore wind enhances refuse accumulation in the beach water. The other portion of floating refuse is derived from land sources, e.g. illegal dumping in open nullahs and storm water drains in the vicinity of bathing areas. After being flushed out into the sea, the refuse is carried along with the current and some end up inside the beach area. 3 Since the amount of floating refuse accumulated at each beach is largely dependent on the wind direction and the water current, the amounts from different beaches vary greatly. There are certain geographical locations where beaches are particularly susceptible to floating refuse accumulation. For example, beaches on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island, including Shek O Beach, Rocky Bay Beach and Big Wave Bay Beach, are particularly susceptible to the effect of easterly winds. The quantities of floating refuse collected at these beaches were relatively high. Beaches on Cheung Chau Island are highly susceptible to floating refuse accumulation as well. For example, more refuse were collected from beaches on Cheung Chau, Tung Wan and Kwun Yam Wan Beaches than from other outlying beaches.4 The total quantity of floating refuse collected at all the gazetted beaches in 1999 is slightly less than that collected in 1998 (Appendix IV & V). Hairpin Beach, being the smallest gazetted beach in Hong Kong, continued to have the largest quantity of floating refuse collected per beach length in 1999 (Appendix IV).5 Gazetted beaches are those where the Government provides lifeguard and beach cleaning services whereas ungazetted beaches did not receive regular refuse collection in the past. Most of Hong Kong’s beaches are ungazetted ones.


The CEC is a privately funded campaign managed by Civic Exchange, www.civic Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Personal Communication 3 Environmental Protection Department. Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong. 4 Ibid 5 Ibid 2


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Floating Refuse II. Marine Debris Survey 1996-1997 a. Findings The Hong Kong Marine Conservation Society (HKMCS) did the first ever territory-wide Marine Debris Survey in 1996-1997. They visited 56 beaches and found 54,679 pieces of debris on 7 km of beach. This works out at 7,745 debris item per kilometre. According to the report, nearly half the debris items were plastic (46.8%). The next most frequently encountered debris items were polystyrene foam (16.1%), glass (13%), paper (8.2%), wood (6.2%), metal (4.7%), pottery (2.2%), sanitary products (1.0%), rubber (0.9%), cloth (0.6%), and wax/candles (0.3%). (Appendix VI) b. Twenty Most Commonly Found Items Over 70 types of debris items were recorded in the HKMCS Marine Debris Survey. Ten items comprised approximately 70% of all debris recorded. The top twenty items comprised approximately 87% of all debris recorded (Appendix VII). c. Sources of Marine Debris Determining the source of an item of marine debris can be quite difficult. It may be discarded by a sunbather, thrown overboard a boat and washed ashore, or washed through municipal storm drains. Some items, however (e.g. fishing nets, fish boxes, etc.), is likely to be directly attributed to a particular source or industry, and the relative inputs from different sources can be estimated based on various indicator items. Major sources of marine debris include tourist/recreational, fishing, shipping, fly-tipping, sewage-related, medical-related, and non-sourced (Appendix VIII). 1.


3. 4.

5. 6.



Recreational activities accounted for approximately 13% of debris recorded on Hong Kong’s beaches. This is very likely a significant underestimate, as many of the non-sourced items, such as plastic bottles, drinks cans, ring tabs, newspapers, paper bags and drinks boxes, take-away food containers, and so forth could have originated from recreational activities. Fishing activities accounted for 7.5% of debris. This is also very likely an underestimate, as the indicators that were used relating to fishing activity were very specific (e.g. fishing line, fishing nets, polystyrene foam fish boxes, etc.). While surveying a beach on Middle Island, near the Hong Kong Yacht Club, it was observed that several sampan operators coat their beached boats with anti-fouling paint. Along the high-tide line were found numerous used paint brushes, still caked with anti-fouling paint (a type which is a very recognizable shade of red), empty paint tins, tins of fiberglass resin, gloves, and other debris that very obviously had been left behind during previous boat painting and repairing sessions. Shipping activities accounted for approximately 3% of debris. This is likely an underestimate, as many items from the non-sourced cate gory could have originated from galley-type wastes. Fly-tipping accounted for nearly 3% of debris. While comprising a relatively small percentage of number of items, debris from fly-tipping comprises a proportionally large percentage of volume of debris. Discarded refrigerators, washing machines, furniture, and construction-related debris (such as lumber, metal, and concrete) occupy a large amount of space, are unsightly, and are difficult to remove for proper disposal. Non-treated/poorly treated domestic sewage made up approximately 1.0% of debris items. Sanitary products such as sanitary towels, tampons, plastic tampon applicators, condoms, and cotton buds are indicators of sewage-related wastes. Medical-related waste made up approximately 0.1% of debris (e.g. syringes). Many of these items undoubtedly originated from illegal drug activities. However, some medical-related wastes may have originated from illegally dumped clinic or hospital refuse. It was reported to HKMCS that Sai Wan, a remote beach in the north-east New Territories, had numerous syringes, medicine bottles, and dose spoons. Unfortunately, paper labels on the medicine bottles had disintegrated, so no particular source could be traced. Non-sourced debris made up the balance as their source could not be traced.6

HKMCS. Marine Debris Survey 1997.


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Floating Refuse III. International Coastal Cleanup The US-based Center for Marine Conservation 7 has been promoting a global International Coastal cleanup since 1986. The Hong Kong coordinator is the International Marinelife Alliance (IMA). 8 Over the weekend of 16 and 17 September 2000, IMA organized last year’s cleanup in Hong Kong at Stanley Main Street, Yan Chau Tong Marine Park, Hoi Hai Wan MP, Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau MP, Cape d’ Aguilar Marine Reserve, Shek O, Sandy Bay Beach, Sok Kwu Wan, Butterfly Bay. The estimated distance covered was about 19.372 km. 7294.5 kg of debris were collected. They were plastic (7,377 pieces), foamed plastic (675), glass (562), rubber (93), metal (324), paper (944), wood (382), cloth (27) and others (370), the total number of items collected was 10,754 9 . The 2001 event will take place on 15 and 16 September and Civic Exchange’s Clean Environment Campaign will join the cleanup by organizing Boating Day on the 15 September to rally boat owners to put team of volunteers together to clean ungazetted beaches. This event has the support of the Marine Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, who will be responsible for coordinating refuse collection after the cleanup. IV. Clean Hong Kong Campaign ~ Government’s Scheme The Chief Executive’s 2000 Policy Address launched a new “Clean Hong Kong Campaign” at the end of last year. The Campaign covers more than marine rubbish. For the sake of comprehensiveness, the whole Campaign is described below. It will run for three years and the objective is to bring about visible and sustainable improvements on the ground through both active cleansing operations and public education and publicity efforts. To secure improvements on the ground, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and other government departments concerned will increase operations in major marine and land littering black spots; strengthen the evening street cleansing operations in areas with high pedestrian flow; improve the cleanliness of public markets and country parks; and provide attendant service and toilet paper to high usage toilets. a. Four Key Elements • step up enforcement action against littering and dumping of waste; • enhance effectiveness of existing laws against littering and dumping; • join efforts with District Councils and other local organizations to secure noticeable improvement on the ground; and • reinforce public commitment by promoting public education and publicity programs. b. Promotion An old but well-remembered mascot, Lap Sap Chung, has been revived for the campaign. According to a recent survey, about 98% of 1,631 respondents have heard of Lap Sap Chung. The Government has produce posters and banners and is advertising on television. c. Community Involvement To enhance community involvement, all 18 District Councils have been invited to organize their own Clean Hong Kong activities with a subsidy of $80,000 each per year. To encourage community organizations to participate, a Clean Hong Kong Funding Scheme has been set-up. Each applicant may receive a maximum of $20,000. Applicants must provide physical clean-up activities; educational and promotional activities for improvement of personal and environmental hygiene; or waste reduction and environmental hygiene improvement projects. For the year 2001-02, all project activities must be completed on or before 28 February 2002. Applications are assessed by a Vetting Committee comprising officials and non-officials from different sectors of the community.


“Marine Conservation” is now renamed as “The Ocean Conservancy”. International Coastal Cleanup is the World’s largest cleanup event. In 1999, over half a million people took part in more than 70 countries, www.cmc-org. IMA website 9 HKMCS. Marine Debris Survey1997. 8


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Floating Refuse d. Activities 1. “Overall” • To take a snapshot of the array of Clean Hong Kong actions, the FEHD has carried out the following operations to bring about improvement to the local environment. A Grey Area Cleansing The FEHD is responsible for waste clearing in “grey areas” where such responsibility was unclear among Government departments. These include unallocated Government land, ungazetted beaches and coastal areas, slopes and soft landscape area along public roads including roundabouts and hill slopes, nullahs, channels, natural or trained watercourse, and lifts for persons with a disability and escalators linking to footbridges. B. Clean-up and clearance of backlanes and hygiene backspots Filthy backlanes fraught with obstructions and unauthorized building works are sometimes overlooked due to location. However, environmental problems such as rodent infestation arise. In this connection, some 200 target locations have been identified for cleansing by the FEHD. In addition, 30 backlanes have been targeted for removal of unauthorized building works by the Buildings Department. C. Major clean-up activities The government has a number of thematic approaches: - marine and coastal areas from April to May 2001; - beaches from June to August 2001; - country parks and recreation areas from September to November 2001; - public housing estates from December 2001 to January 2002; and - public places and facilities from December 2001 to February 2002. D. A new fixed penalty system for minor public cleanliness offences The legislation for a fixed penalty system for a number of public cleanliness offences has been passed by the Legislative Council in July and is expected to come into force by the end of this year or early next year. The offences covered include littering, spitting, unauthorized display of bills or posters and dog fouling in public places. Anyone who commits the offences will be liable for a fixed penalty of $600. Operational guidelines have been prepared in consultation with the departments concerned. The FEHD is also working out the train-the-trainers sessions for staff of departments concerned. 2. “Clean-up of ungazetted beaches” The FEHD is responsible for cleaning ungazetted beaches. The department targets those major blackspots of prime concern as well as popular tourist areas. The frequency of cleansing services provided to ungazetted beaches ranges from once in a month to as many as once in a week. The FEHD believes the main causes of the following marine litter are: -

Indiscriminate dumping of refuse by people on shore or vessels including beach goers, those in the vicinities of sea frontages and the floating population.


Business-related activities like marine fish culture zones, wholesale fish markets, cargo operations etc.


Refuse poured down from rivers, nullahs, promenades etc. particularly by torrential rain or under flooding situation.


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Floating Refuse

According to the government, the daily average of refuse collected from ungazetted beaches during weekends and holidays is 0.86 tonnes while that for normal days is 0.91 tonnes. In money terms, the average cost for cleaning up an ungazetted beach can amount up to $18,000 (including 3-hour departmental staff cost on supervision). A. Marine Department The Marine Department has a series of activities to enhance enforcement action against marine littering and the cleaning-up work in the harbour. Enforcement action against marine littering is stepped up during Sundays and public holidays. There are also special operations for identified major marine refuse black spots including typhoon shelters and waters off ungazetted beaches during the Chinese New Year, closed-fishing and summer vacation periods. In addition, the department also organizes joint operations with the FEHD to clear the refuse at ungazetted beaches during the summer vacation. Marine Department scavenges and collects refuse through a combined fleet of government and contractors vessels. In an effort to improve the service and extend it to remotes waters, the fleet has been expanded from 30 vessels in 1995 to 66 vessels by the end of 2000. The yearly total of floating refuse collected has more than doubled from 4,765 tons to over 10,000 tons during the period. To further improve the efficiency of the scavenging fleet by reducing the travelling time of the cleaning vessels, the department is looking for additional marine refuse collection points in remote areas such as Sai Kung and Tai Po to provide more landing points for handling marine refuse. A new marine refuse collection point in West Kowloon is being developed and will come into operation in 2001. 10

B. Clean Environment Campaign CEC funded a 3-week trial of an innovative system for collecting floating marine rubbish in June/July 2001 by using traditional Chinese fishing skills. The project had among its collaboration partners the Civic Exchange, Marine Department, local fishermen, and a Dutch sea captain, who first spotted the possibility of adapting the nets. The trial aimed to complement the specially-designed refuse scavenging vessels, which invariably lose a portion of the garbage harvested in choppy waters before being able to discharge their catch into supporting boats and containers. The trial uses adapted fishing nets with floating devices to enable the capture of refuse on and below the surface. Tests showed that the adapted nets substantially reduced the amount of refuse that is washed way by the waves as the scavenger vessels bring it in. This effort enabled the adaptation of traditional Chinese fishing techniques for new usage. Conclusion Floating refuse and refuse on beaches are a nuisance and an eyesore. It can also interfere with marine traffic. 11 The Government’s “Clean Hong Kong Campaign” is a step in the right direction but Government alone cannot achieve the goal and eradicate the root cause of the problem – Hong Kong people’s behaviour. More effective public education programs are necessary to get the public to change their littering habits both on land and when they are at sea. Some industries, like the fishing industry, needs to be targeted to help them change their habits. There should also be a more aggressive 10 Environmental Protection Department. Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong. 11


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Floating Refuse policy to fine and prosecute all offenders. Only with joint efforts from the public and private sector can a fundamental change of the Hong Kong people’s environmental behaviour evolve and a clean environment be sustained. This will instill a sense of ownership and pride in the community for our clean environment. 7 August 2001


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Floating Refuse Appendix I Breakdown of Littoral & Sea Refuse Collected In Joint Clean-up Operations with FEHD in 2001 Month

Timber (in tones) (in cu.m) January 44.70 179 February 49.23 197 March 56.49 226 April 11.23 45 May 42.47 170 June 64.50 26 Total 268.62 1075

Polyfoam (in tones) (in cu.m) 15.74 63 16.44 66 28.95 116 8.02 32 17.38 70 14.56 58 101.09 405

Other (in tones) (in cu.m) 30.14 121 24.03 96 24.03 96 7.50 30 41.63 167 30.97 124 158.30 633

Sub total (in tones) (in cu.m) 90.58 362 89.70 359 109.47 438 26.75 107 101.48 406 110.03 440 528.01 2112

Appendix II Daily Average Cost for Cleaning Ungazetted Beaches And Coastline in Joint Clean-up Operations with FEHD in 2001 Month January February March April May June Total Average

Daily Average Costing $13,279.62 $12,726.31 $11,333.58 $15,276.86 $11,774.09 $12,268.62 $12,656.89

The cost included the contractors’ vessels and MD’s designated staff in the two Special Joint Clean-up Teams working with FEHD. Appendix III Debris collected at LCSD beaches from January to November 2000: January – 1,387.98 tons March – 1,244.04 tons May – 1,672.79 tons July – 2,140.74 tons September – 1,988.20 tons November – 1,337.86 tons

February – 1,158.45 tons April – 1,518.09 tons June – 1,832.34 tons August – 2,639.87 tons October – 1,798.74 tons December – 1,401.36 tons

Source: LCSD, Personal Communication


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Floating Refuse Appendix IV Total quantity of floating refuse collected at various gazetted beaches from Mar to Oct 1999 Gazetted beach

Total quantity (m3)

Peak quantity (m3) [month]

Southern District Big Wave Bay Chung Hom Kok Deep Water Bay Hairpin Middle Bay Repulse Bay Rocky Bay Shek O South Bay St. Stephen’s Stanley Main

Turtle Cove Islands District Kwun Yam Wan Tung Wan, Cheung Chau Hung Shing Yeh Lo So Shing Cheung Sha Lower Cheung Sha Upper Pui O Silvermine Bay

Tong Fuk Sai Kung District Clear Water Bay 1st Clear Water Bay 2nd Hap Mun Bay Kiu Tsui Silverstrand Trio (Hebe Haven) Tsuen Wan District Anglers’ Approach Casam Gemini Hoi Mei Wan Lido Ting Kau Tung Wan, Ma Wan

632 96 499 242 460 443 1186 1388 71 489 360 378

90 32 208 35 76 95 232 342 15 87 55 139

(Aug) (Aug) (Aug) (Mar) (Aug) (Aug) (Apr)’ (Sep) (Aug) (Aug) (Mar)

163 375 46 47 220 145 1216 224 89

41 54 12 11 62 42 525 50 19

(Mar) (Oct) (Aug) (Aug) (Aug) (Aug) (Sep) (Aug)

75 83 114 64 294 44

17 (Jul) 17 (Aug) 21 (Aug) 16 (Aug) 92 (Apr) 11 (Jun)

79 110 97 18 128 145 106 94

18 (Sep) 16 (Jul) 17 (Aug) 8 (Oct) 22 (Aug) 24 (Aug) 16 (Jul) 14 (Sep)



Tuen Mun District Butterfly 491 70 (Mar) Golden Beach 689 92 (May) Kadoorie 145 23 (Jul) New Cafeteria 134 24 (Aug) Old Cafeteria 131 26 (Jul) Data for Gemini Beach were collected since its reopening in August 1999 to October. *No data is kept for Castle Peak Beach. # 1m3 = 530 kg (wet weight) Source: Environmental Protection Department. Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong.


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Floating Refuse Appendix V Total quantity of floating refuse collected at gazetted beaches from March to October 1998 Gazetted Beach Total quantity (m3) Hong Kong Island South District Big Wave Bay 837 Chung Hom Kok 44 Deep Water Bay 404 Hairpin 274 Middle Bay 331 Repulse Bay 742 Rocky Bay 1,814 Shek O 2,477 South Bay 95 St. Stephen’s 348 Stanley Main 404 Turtle Cove 399 Outlying Islands District Kwun Yam Wan 368 Tung Wan, Cheung Chau 924 Hung Shing Yeh 149 Lo So Shing 95 Cheung Sha Lower 328 Cheung Sha Upper 132 Pui O 619 Silvermine Bay 166 Tong Fuk 77 Sai Kung District Clear Water Bay 1st 40 Clear Water Bay 2nd 103 Hap Mun Bay 110 Kiu Tsui 32 Silverstrand 315 Trio (Hebe Haven) 112 Tsuen Wan District Anglers’ 200 Approach 92 Casam 88 Gemini 123 Hoi Mei Wan 188 Lido 129 Ting Kau 103 Tung Wan, Ma Wan 95 Tuen Mun District Butterfly 514 Castle Peak 57 Golden Beach 687 Kadoorie 137 New Cafeteria 108 Old Cafeteria 156 # 1 m3 = 530 kg (wet weight)

Peak quantity (m3) [month] 152 (Aug) 12 (Jul) 138 (Jul) 40 (Mar) 54 (Aug) 282 (Jul) 428 (Oct) 396 (May) 17 (Jul) 84 (Jul) 64 (Aug) 202 (Jul) 89 139 66 40 75 23 147 32 12

(Oct) (May) (Jul) (Jul) (Jul) (Oct) (Jun) (Aug) (Aug)

10 (Oct) 16 (May) 24 (Jul) 7 (May) 67 (Apr) 24 (Jul) 42 (Mar) 13 (Apr) 17 (Jul) 27 (Sep) 35 (Mar) 21 (Jul) 15 (Jul) 14 (May) 79 (Mar) 17 (Jun) 95 (Oct) 18 (Jul) 22 (Jul) 27 (Mar)

Source: Environmental Protection Department. Beach Water Quality in Hong Kong.


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Floating Refuse

Appendix VI Principal Material Types Material Type Plastic Polystyrene foam Glass Paper Wood Metal Pottery Sanitary material Rubber Cloth Wax/candles Tar/oil Total

Number Recorded 25,562 8,799 7,092 4,499 3,386 2,555 1,227 560 483 333 182 12 54,679

% of Total Debris Items 46.8 16.1 13.0 8.2 6.2 4.7 2.2 1.0 0.9 0.6 0.3 <0.1 100.0%

Source: HKMCS “Marine Debris Survey”

Appendix VII The Twenty Most Commonly Found Items Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Debris Item Polystyrene fragments Glass fragments Plastic fragments Plastic bottles/containers Plastic bags Wood fragments Plastic caps/lids Cigarette butts Plastic cutlery/straws Plastic rope/cord Plastic fishing floats Pottery fragments Paper fragments Plastic food packets Polystyrene food containers Metal drinks cans Plastic strapping bands Paper drinks cartons Glass bottles Plastic sheeting Total of Top Twenty

Number Recorded 7,054 6,468 4,868 4,618 3,704 3,245 3,064 2,154 1,893 1,697 1,361 1,227 1,049 1,025 997 864 785 666 511 420 47,670

% of Total Debris Items 12.9 11.8 8.9 8.4 6.8 5.9 5.6 3.9 3.5 3.1 2.5 2.2 1.9 1.9 1.8 1.6 1.4 1.2 0.9 0.8 87.2%

Source: HKMCS “Marine Debris Survey”


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Floating Refuse Appendix VIII Sources of Marine Debris Recorded During HKMCS Survey Source

Indicator Items


Plastic bottles/containers, plastic caps/lids, 6-pack yokes, plastic bags, disposable lighters, mesh veg bags, pens, plastic fragments, clothes pegs, fast-food containers, polystyrene foam fragments, rubber fragments, wood fragments, metal caps, drinks cans, aerosols, wire, ring tabs, metal fragments, paper bags, cardboard, cartons, newspapers, paper fragments, glass bottles, glass fragments, tar/oil. Recreational Plastic cups, cutlery/straws, crisp/food packets, plastic shoes, toys, polystyrene cups, balloons, ice lolly sticks, BBQ forks, paper cups, cigarette packets, cigarette butts, clothing, shoes, wax/candles Fishing Fishing line, fishing nets, plastic floats, rope/cord, polystyrene foam fish boxes, buoys, boots, gloves Shipping Industrial packaging, strapping bands, plastic sheets, polystyrene foam packaging, tyres, crates, pallets, food cans, oil drums, shipping scrap, fuel bottles, light bulbs Fly-tipping Industrial scrap, furnishings, pottery Sewage-related Towels/panty liners, plastic backing strips, tampons, applicators, condoms, nappies, cotton bud sticks Medical-related Syringes, medicine bottles, dose spoons

Number Recorded 39,262

% of Total Debris Items 71.7







1,558 560

2.8 1.0



Source: HKMCS â&#x20AC;&#x153;Marine Debris Surveyâ&#x20AC;?


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Appendix III: Debris collected at LCSD beaches from January to November 2000 8 Appendix V: Total quantity of floating refuse collected at g...