This year, the Taiwan National Cleanup Day was scheduled to run on the 20th May 2018. What preceded was to be months of planning, running around, last minute cancellations and meltdowns. In the end, how did it all go?
2018 was the 2nd year of running The Taiwan National Cleanup and we joined Dustin and Ryan, the main organisers from Taiwan Adventure Outings TAO, to lend a hand. With the big idea in place, it was now time to figure out how to make it all happen.
Finding The Locations for the Taiwan National Cleanup Day
One of the great things about Dustin and Ryan running the TAO, is that they get to visit so many beautiful spots around Taiwan. Not only beaches but mountain passes, waterfalls and many other places of incredible beauty that we are lucky to have in Taiwan. On the flip side, they are also aware of the garbage that is found in almost every part of the Island. Beaches strewn with the flotsam and jetsam of careless fishermen and inattentive tourists. Waterfalls and mountain tops choked with the remains of picnics and family days out.
Finding locations to clean up, it turns out, was the easy bit. Finding enough volunteers to clean everywhere that needed it, was going to be the real challenge.
In the end, we settled for 14 of our favourite locations including Jinshan beach, Shifen and Wulai. My location was going to be at Baishawen beach on the North coast.
Calling All Volunteers
One of the biggest challenges of an event like this is finding enough volunteers to help out. The first step though was finding enough leaders to help run each location. Luckily, between Dustin, Ryan and myself, we found some of the best. Once we had our 14 team leaders, it was time for the biggest challenge of all, finding the volunteer cleaners.
We started slowly, contacting friends and family, sharing our vision for the Taiwan National Cleanup Day and trying to evoke the passion we felt for the project. We shared our story on our social media platforms, spoke to businesses, local organisations and groups with similar goals. We contacted restaurants, radio and tv media and anyone we could find who would be willing to help.
I personally, wanted to say a special thanks for the special help we got from Lauren at The Australia Office in Taipei, Roma from The Red Room, Steven from the British Chambers, and Lydia from Origin Yoga & Wellness.
Little by little things started to gain traction. As we got closer to the date we started to think that perhaps we might have a chance of making this a success.
And Now for The Money
One of the things you might not think about when cleaning beaches, is what to do with all the trash when it is cleaned up. Taiwan has an excellent service provided by the councils and they will pick up when you ask them. However, you are required to use special government bags to place the trash in and these can be expensive, especially when you need to buy hundreds of them. We also needed scales to weigh the trash, shelters and gloves to protect our volunteers and to provide water too.
Having money for projects like this makes all the difference!
How Did We Do?
Finally, the 20th May arrived and all across Taiwan, volunteers started showing up in their droves. From Baishawen in the North to Pintung in the South, people were donning their gloves and slapping on the sunscreen as they started their own roles as part of the 2018 Taiwan Nationwide Cleanup day.
I still find this hard to believe, but in the end here are the results from that day.
- Ruifang: 1833 kg
- Baishawan: 520 kg
- Jinshan: 350kg
- Kaohsiung: 250kg
- Wai’ao: 200 kg
- Wulai: 185 kg
- Fulong: 172 kg
- Hualien: 153 kg
- Dansui: 150 kg
- Tainan: 150 kg
- Taitung: 130 kg
- Shifen: 27 kg
- Pingxi: 15 kg
- Yushan: 4 kg
In total, more than 500 volunteers collected over 4 tons of garbage!
Scale of the problem
Fridges, syringes, bottles, polystyrene, fishing nets, shoes, food wrapping, plastic bags, toothbrushes the list goes on.
On the 20th May 2018, we cleaned around 10km’s of beach along Taiwan’s coastline. Taiwan’s coastline is more than 1500 km’s long. On any given day there can be upwards of 1000 tons of garbage on Taiwan’s beaches and coastlines, even more, if you include the many footpaths, rivers and streams.
This is one day in one tiny country in Asia.
Imagine now, in the rest of the world with it’s more than 300,000 km’s of coastline and thousands more of rivers, streams and roads. Even worse perhaps, imagine now what is left undiscovered, floating in our oceans and sea’s, poisoning our planet.
The scale of the problem is breathtaking.
What can you do
Volunteering for events like this is an incredible thing to do and something anyone should be very proud of. But, of course, it is not enough simply to pick up trash, there is simply too much.
We need to share stories like these with our friends and families and let them know what is happening our there, with our planet. We need to tell stores that we won’t keep buying their products packaged needlessly with no regard for the environment. We need to talk to politicians and business leaders and tell them to take action.
But most importantly, each of us needs to take responsibility for what we consume and ultimately throw away. We need to realise that recycling is a broken promise told in perpetuity by our governments so that we may continue spending and keep the so-called growth of the nation ticking along.
The very best thing you can do, therefore, is to reduce what you use. Say no to straws, plastic cups, bags and useless packaging. Go without if you have to, but make an effort today to help slow down this incredible problem, the result of 50 years of runaway consumption.
See you all next year at the next Taiwan National Cleanup Day:)
Check out the One Brown Planet sustainable toolkit to living more sustainably and help make this planet just a little bit better.