Environmental group the Society of Wilderness (SOW, 荒野保護協會) yesterday said that a total of 28,130 disposable utensils and dishware — about six times the amount from three years ago — were picked up during the 25 coastal cleanup activities it hosted last year.
Yesterday, at an event to promote this year’s International Coastal Cleanup events, the society said Taiwan has many rich and beautiful marine resources, with foreign surfing magazines choosing northeast Taiwan’s Fulong Beach (福隆) as one of the top 50 surf beaches in the world, but that most of Taiwan’s coastal areas are being damaged by marine litter.
The group said disposable utensils and dishware have become the most common type of litter found on Taiwan’s beaches. In last year’s cleanup events, 28,130 pieces were found, accounting to approximately the amount a person would use for three meals each day over 28 years.
The second most common type of litter picked up last year was plastic bags, the group said, adding that a total of 15,039 were collected. Using Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck for scale, the bags lined up would be 334 times the size of Greater Kaohsiung’s tourist attraction, it said.
An SOW marine guard member surnamed Hu (胡) said they speculated that the increase of disposable utensils and dishware found as marine litter may be because night markets, roadside stalls and snacks have become more popular.
It takes about 20 years for a plastic bag, about 50 years for a Styrofoam cup or plate, and about 450 years for a polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) bottle to decompose the group said, adding that although the recycle rate of PET bottles has already reached about 97 percent in Taiwan, disposable utensils and dishware — which cost less to produce — are recycled less because it is not economically viable.
The litter causes marine animals to die because they mistake the plastic or paper for food, it said.
At the event, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) said that the administration is also promoting a ‘homeland cleanup’ program and initiating coastal cleanups.
More than 9,900 people have attended the events as of late last month and they have collected about 3,700 tonnes of litter.
The society encouraged the public to protect the marine environment by reducing their use of disposable items, and called on the government to review its policies and work with businesses and the manufacturing industry to reduce the production of these items.