The nation’s beaches are beset with plastic waste, most of which is food packaging, utensils and food-related items, while decades-long efforts at beach clean-ups have had a limited effect, environmental groups said as they urged the public to reduce their usage of disposable plastic products.
The Society of Wilderness on Friday last week announced the results of its beach clean-up campaigns this year, saying that 89.6 percent of the garbage collected from Taiwan’s beaches were made of plastic, and 72.4 percent were food and beverage containers or eating utensils.
The Top 10 garbage items collected were bottle caps, fishing floats, plastic bags, drinking straws, disposable eating utensils, glass bottles, plastic bottles, disposable cups, food containers and cigarette butts, the society said.
“Except for the fishing floats, all the top 10 items that are littering our beaches are everyday products, suggesting there is a huge problem of the public’s consumption behaviors and garbage management,” society president Lai Jung-hsiao (賴榮孝) said.
The society mobilized nearly 10,000 volunteers to clean up 48 beaches in 15 cities this year and they collected 36 tonnes of trash, Lai said.
There is an average 700g of garbage for every meter of beach, he said.
However, while the 290 beach cleaning events organized by the society over the past 12 years have helped the nation’s beaches become cleaner, there is still 1.8 million tonnes of garbage scattered around Taiwan’s 1,200km coastline, he said.
Ocean pollution caused by tiny bits of plastics is a major concern, as there are 2,090 plastic scraps smaller than a coin on every square meter of beach, amounting to 25 billion plastic bits being strewn about the nation’s coast, he said.
Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology’s Taiwan branch director Cheng Ying-pin (鄭瑛彬) said the public must reduce its plastic footprint.
“Industry should cut down on its reliance on disposable plastics, replacing them with recyclable materials,” Cheng said.
The groups urged businesses to “de-plasticize” their production: companies should calculate the mass of different plastics that make up their best-selling products to select products with the highest de-plasticizing potential and then reduce the plastics used to produce the products.
They also called on the government to launch survey and monitoring projects to identify the source of ocean trash and devise solutions to cope with the ever-growing problem.
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