Trash from China that washes up on the beaches of Taiwanese islands such as Kinmen and Matsu has long created headaches for cleanup workers.
The state of one Matsu beach, covered with plastic bottles and food packaging from popular Chinese brands, shocked and embarrassed a group of Chinese exchange students who recently took part in a beach cleanup activity there.
Just over 100 students from Minjiang University in China’s Fujian Province have studied at the Chinese Culture University in an exchange program in the past year.
They recently concluded their studies and, before departing, helped clean up a beach in Matsu’s Chuluo (珠螺) coastal region arranged by the Tourism Bureau.
Many of the students were surprised to see the large amounts of garbage drifting along the shoreline and strewn on the beach.
The waste included packaging of consumer goods ubiquitous in their daily lives, including plastic packs of Master Kong instant noodles and the famous Fuzhou fish balls, as well as plastic bottles of brand-name soft drinks from China.
Lee Chien-hsun (李建勳), a Matsu National Scenic Area Administration official, said many of the Chinese students expressed sorrow about the beach pollution caused by litter from China, which is less than a kilometer away from some of the islets of the Matsu group.
Some of the students sang the TV commercial theme songs of products familiar to them when they spotted items they recognized, Lee said.
One of the students, Bi Baibai (畢白白), wrote in a post on a Chinese microblogging site that she would have been unable to imagine the extent of the litter if she had not seen it with her own eyes.
She also wrote that she felt ashamed that her compatriots’ behavior had caused so much cross-border environmental pollution.
“Although the cleanup program has ended, the shocking feeling I felt [when seeing the litter] remains fresh in my mind. With a feeling of shame, I picked up trash that had floated across the Taiwan Strait to Matsu from my home province,” Bi wrote.
“Seeing all this familiar trash, I could not help but think that Matsu residents have been forced to find out about popular consumer brands on the mainland by having it strewn on their land ... I really feel sorry for this littering by the people in my home,” she added.
Bi’s posting immediately drew an enthusiastic response. Some bloggers said they felt the cleanup activity was very meaningful and inspiring, while others said they hope China would devote more energy to proper garbage disposal and be more strict in implementing garbage classification.
A Chinese Culture University professor said he hopes the program would promote ecological education, environmental protection, eco-tourism and eco-friendly lifestyles.
Matsu officials said litter from China has been becoming an increasingly serious problem as China continues its rapid economic development.
The quantity of waste has been rising, causing huge damage to Matsu’s coastal scenery, the officials said, adding that more than 1,000 tonnes is removed manually per year.
Similar problems have also troubled the Penghu Islands, tourism officials said, adding that the archipelago’s northern coastlines are the most seriously polluted and that even its uninhabited islets such as Yuanbeiyu (員貝嶼) and Jishanyu (雞善嶼) have also been affected.