The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday that thousands of volunteers would clean up after this year’s pilgrimage of the Dajia Matsu (大甲媽祖), which began late yesterday evening in Taichung County’s Dajia Township (大甲).
Recycling Fund Management Board director Lin Chien-huei (林建輝) said yesterday that thousands of people, belonging to a dozen different environmental protection groups, have signed up to pick up litter after the procession to keep the nations’ streets clean.
“The slogan for this year’s event is ‘blessed when you recycle,’” Lin said.
The garbage pickup and recycling event began last year and because it was such a hit, this year the number of volunteers has increased dramatically, Lin said.
“The cleaning volunteers will hold banners at the beginning of the procession to promote recycling and to remind people not to throw their trash into the street,” he said.
A total of 41 tonnes of recyclable materials were collected during last year’s parade, Lin said.
“That is enough material to make 2 million 600ml plastic drink bottles,” he said.
The EPA expects to collect more this year, Lin said, adding that besides promoting recycling, he also urged worshipers to take along their own chopsticks, water bottles and cups and refrain from using disposable ones.
The annual parade sees the statue of Matsu — the Goddess of the Sea — leave Jhenlan Temple (鎮瀾宮) (the nation’s largest Matsu temple with the most worshipers) to be carried on foot to other Matsu temples in central Taiwan around the time of her birthday.
The procession this year, which will take eight days and seven nights, will visit Chiayi County’s Singang Township (新港), Yunlin County’s Hsilo Township (西螺) and Changhua County’s Peidou Township (北斗).
It is estimated that 100,000 worshipers gathered in Dajia on Saturday to send Matsu on her journey and more than a million worshipers are expected to participate in the eight-day event.
Matsu is one of the most widely worshiped deities in Taiwan. The goddess is also worshiped in coastal regions of other Asian nations, including China and Vietnam.
Since being established in the 18th century, the Jhenlan Temple has been a religious mecca for Matsu worshipers, both domestic and international.
Filled with folk performance arts, fire crackers and worshipers young and old burning incense sticks, the annual event was listed by the Discovery Channel as one of biggest religious festivals in the world, along with the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and Catholics visiting the Vatican.