The average Taiwanese uses 2.7 plastic bags per day and the nation uses 1.8 billion plastic bags in total per year, a figure which means the nation is one of the largest producers of plastic waste worldwide, environmental protection groups said yesterday.
The groups revealed the numbers at a press conference yesterday and called on the public to cut down purchases of single-use plastic bags after International Coastal Cleanup Day today.
The event originated in the US and was first held in 1986 in Texas by the Center for Marine Conservation — now named the Ocean Conservancy.
The event came to encompass the whole of the US coastline by 1988 and was introduced internationally in 1989.
The marine waste monitoring results from last year found that the items found most on ocean surfaces were plastic bags, while disposable utensils, straws, bottle caps and glass bottles were also high on the list, the group of organizations yesterday said.
An analysis of the quantity of waste picked up during last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day showed that the number of plastic bottles collected was sufficient to build 8.4 Taipei 101 towers, the organizations said, adding that the amount of disposable utensils gathered would supply an individual’s needs for more than 30 years if the person used disposable cutlery three times a day.
“Our waste and the habit of disposing of plastic products after using them once is severely impacting the environment and wildlife,” a member of the organizations said, adding that some volunteers had actually seen animals swallow plastic bags whole. “Why do we expose marine life to this waste, which does not decompose for decades?”
If the public refused to buy or use new plastic bags until the end of the year, it would reduce the production of plastic bags by 210 per person, the groups said, calling on convenience stores to stop providing consumers with plastic bags and encouraging consumers to take their own bags with them when they go shopping.
The organizations said that the improper disposal of plastic waste was also a great risk to human health, on, a par with or exceeding that posed by the recent tainted food oil scandal.
The groups were referring to accusations that Chang Guann Co (強冠企業) used tainted, recycled oil and made lard oil from it.
The firm allegedly purchased oil from Kuo Lieh-cheng (郭烈成) and Hu Hsin-te (胡信德), who allegedly used waste oil as a base and mixed it with recycled oil from tanneries.
Taiwan Environmental Information Association deputy secretary-general Sun Hsiu-ju (孫秀如) said that the public imagined that once waste was taken away by a garbage truck it was carried to the proper facility, but he questioned the locations of some of these facilities.
Many landfills, approximately 102 across the nation, are within 1km of the coast or 500m from rivers, Sun said, adding that with constant erosion of landfill sites by wind and rain, some of the buried waste is exposed and can be carried away by bodies of water.
The Environmental Protection Agency should inspect all landfill sites on the coast or near rivers and repair them, she added.
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