Society of Wilderness (SOW) branches yesterday organized 14 cleanups across the country. The cleanups were part of a campaign promoting the need to keep coastal areas clean, which was launched by environmental groups last weekend, in line with the annual global International Coastal Cleanup event.
This year, environmental groups formed a Taiwan Ocean Cleanup Alliance, which also included the Tainan Community University, the Taiwan Environmental Information Center, the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology Preparatory Office and the Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation.
The society yesterday urged participants to get rid of “three coastal monsters” — cigarette butts, plastic bags and fishing-use styrofoam, in an effort to guarantee a clean coastal environment.
The society said that although these three types of trash were not necessarily the top three types of garbage picked up in coastal areas, they are very common and could do severe harm to marine animals when swallowed.
Last year, plastic bags, soft drink bottles and buoys were the top three types of trash picked up during the campaign, while a total of 6,692kg of trash was removed along 12.68km of coastline.
SOW marine conservation coordinator Lin Ai-lung (林愛龍) said the society had chosen to focus on the “three coastal monsters” this year, because the government had introduced policies that were a direct response to the four types focused on last year. One example was the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) “own-cup policy” enacted in May, which encourages consumers to reduce the use of disposable plastic cups, she said.
SOW hopes the government will now draft policies to help reduce the amount of the three types of litter identified this year, Lin said.
More than 5,000 participants have signed up for the cleanup activities that will run until the middle of next month, Lin said, adding that about 800 participants took part in cleanup work in New Taipei City’s (新北市) North Coast Linshanbi Recreation Area (麟山鼻遊憩區) yesterday morning, where they helped pick up many barbecue leftovers from the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Before the event officially started, a number of educational games were played in which participants were surprised to learn that garbage such as cigarette lighters, bottle caps and plastic bags were often mistaken for fish or jelly fish and eaten by other marine life.
More pieces of styrofoam were collected this year than last year and such small pieces were especially difficult to pick up and far easier for marine animals to swallow, Lin said.
If people are interested in participating in the coastal cleanup, the SOW suggests they do so in groups, pick a time when the tide is out and wear footwear that covers the whole foot, Lin said, adding that additional guidelines can be found on the society’s Web site.