Plastic bags, plastic bottles and straws, cigarette butts and other garbage are polluting the coastlines and the ocean of Taiwan.
By Lizane Louw
Large amounts of marine debris are washing up on the beaches. Much of it from coastal garbage dumps and mainland China.
25/ 02/ 2017. Shoes, cigarette butts, and glass bottles are some of the thousands of pieces of marine debris that can be found on San Po Beach, Northern Taiwan, despite regular clean ups by TEIA, an Environmental NGO in Taiwan. Photo Lizane Louw
The Taiwan Environmental Information Association, TEIA, has collected data on marine waste since 2013 as part of its beach clean ups. Last year they monitored 22 coastal areas including Xinbei City, San Po Beach, Taichung West Point, and Tainan Siok.
About 850 volunteers removed 3,076.6 kg of marine garbage, the weight of a small SUV truck.
25/ 02/ 2017. A volunteer putting on gloves that are provided by TEIA for the beach cleanup and monitoring action at San Po Beach, Northern Taiwan. Photo Lizane Louw
“A lot of plastic bags, handbags, and wrappers for candy and cookies was found today, but the most garbage we found today was cigarette butts,” said Chao Jui, at the TEIA, San Po Heroes Quest. Chao has been working on the beach cleaning projects, at San Po Beach for two years.
“The issue here is the littering as source of marine debris, not littering as the man on the street would think, people throwing stuff away, the sources are wide spread, some stuff left behind by people coming to the beach, but a lot is also coming from the oceans,” said Qiao Ling, project organizer for TEIA.
“There are a lot of landfills along the coastline, nobody goes there, and nobody sees the garbage being dumped and being covered up,” says Qiao. “They are weathered away and the rubbish then goes into the sea.”
Involving volunteers in beach actions leads to awareness about the problems of marine debris. “The volunteers see for themselves that a lot of rubbish comes from our daily lives and fishing activities, and also from overseas,” Qiao said. Fishing and fishing activities are responsible for 18% of marine debris found on San Po Beach in Northern Taiwan.
TEIA compiles the data in an annual report.
Protecting the waters: laws and education
Qiao Ling says TEIA presents beach data to government and challenges authorities to find solutions to garbage management.
In an effort to deal with the problem, the EPD (Environmental Protection Department) released a second edition of a draft on December 8, 2016. It proposes to restrict the manufacture, import and sale of cosmetics and personal cleaning products containing plastic particles from January 1, 2018, and prohibits the sale (including gifts) from July 1, 2018.
TEIA can’t wait for government action. “Rubbish comes from everywhere, we need a multiple fold strategy,” say Qiao.
Chao Jui says as more people are educated through activities such as beach cleanups; they will change their behavior. “They will think what to do in their normal daily lives,” she said.
“Take away food culture is so big in Taiwan. If you go to a breakfast shop you get a box, you get chopsticks, you get a wrapper and all this they put in a plastic bag. You buy a drink and that goes with a straw and the straw is also in a wrapper. Think how many pieces of garbage that is, ” asks Qiao.
25/ 02/ 2017. The food and beverage industry, especially the night markets and breakfast shops are responsible for 58% of the marine debris on San Po Beach. Photo Lizane Louw
The data chart from the report of 2016 shows that the food and beverage industries are responsible for creating the most marine debris and trash.
TEIA is encouraging people to set daily targets for themselves to prevent marine debris and the problem with plastics. They encourage people to bring their own cloth bag when they go shopping. They also suggest people take stainless steel cutlery, water bottles, and their own containers when they buy take out meals.
Qiao Ling is confident. “All this can change if each person does a little bit. Can you go a day without creating rubbish and using disposables?”.