photo by John Roberts (Flickr CC)

What you read or hear about Hong Kong can be confusing.

Recently the semi-autonomous city state of the People’s Republic of China was named the “most liveable city” in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit bi-annual global liveability index. This year’s criteria was designed by an urban planner and judged cities based on their amount of natural and cultural assets; green space; connectivity; absence of sprawl and lack of isolation.

ECA International also rated Hong Kong as Asia’s 3rd most liveable city despite rating its air quality as among the poorest.

Hong Kong’s recent API (Air Pollution Index) rates were severe, with the sick and elderly being urged to stay indoors and the city’s famous skyline obscured by smog.

If that wasn’t bad enough, hundreds of millions of plastic pellets washed up on Hong Kong beaches this week.

Six shipping containers were knocked off a freighter during Typhoon Vicente, spilling 150 metric tons of the pellets, known as nurdles, which are the raw material used to make many plastic products like shopping bags and bubble wrap.

From the Associated Press:

Local environmental groups worry that the pellets could absorb toxins and pollutants before being eaten by fish, making their way up the food chain and posing a threat to humans and rare marine species such as the Chinese white dolphin. But the company said the risk was low because the pellets were chemically stable.

Hong Kong – severely polluted air and beaches awash with plastic pellets, but somehow more “liveable” than practically everywhere else. What does that say about the state of the world’s cities?