It was Sunday, the 22nd October 2017 and beach cleaning day! A chance to give back to our environment and also to catch up with some good friends. No-one could have imagined what was about to happen next. And it was only after we arrived at Jinshan beach did we learn the truth about plastic.
Taiwan previously had been known as Formosa or the ‘beautiful’ Island and is nestled in-between Japan, China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. This lovely little island is only around 500km in length but has a population of over 23 million people. By necessity, it has become one of the best recyclers in the world, over 65% in Taipei.
They simply have no land left to throw their garbage.
Location, Location, Location
Unfortunately, for Taiwan, even though it has world-leading levels of recycling, it’s location in the South China Sea brings with it more than just political tension and the sweltering heat of the tropical sun. Taiwan sits directly in the middle of most of the polluted waterways in the world. Its neighbours are the 5 Countries responsible for dumping the most plastic pollution into the oceans.
It is estimated that these Countries are responsible for up to 60% of all the plastic trash we find in the oceans today. Worse, because of the complex ocean currents that exist, this trash is then transported across the globe, poisoning and killing animals and habitats as it disperses.
2 days before we arrived at Jinshan Beach on the North East coast of Taiwan, the deadly Typhoon Lan passed close by Taiwan, on its way to reaping destruction on the Japanese mainland. Even though the Typhoon didn’t make landfall in Taiwan, it brought its own form of destruction.
Where To Start?
When confronted by such overwhelming destruction, where do you start? Certainly, a few volunteers are no match for Typhoons and the havoc they can reap. But, the real story here is not our ineffectiveness on the day but the realisation that all this detritus was already sitting in the oceans circulating and poisoning our ecosystems.
All it takes a weather system such as Typhoon Han, to show us what lies beneath.
The Inconvenient Truth About Plastic
Our best estimates suggest we are dumping 1 fully loaded garbage truck full of trash into the ocean every minute. By 2050 scientists have predicted that our trash will outweigh all lifeforms in the ocean. The ocean has become a giant garbage can and it is filling up fast.
Millions of fish and marine animals are already feeding on this garbage and dying every year. This reduces our dwindling food stocks even more. Those that survive are found to have consumed plastic which we in turn consume, oblivious to the health implications this may have.
This is a disaster, being played out in slow motion. Watched by a lethargic audience unwilling or unable to give up their addiction to the convenient lifestyle that is the cause of this destruction.
Days Like These
It is days like these when you realise just how ineffective your efforts to stem this destruction really are. That the ultimate destruction of our marine ecosystems is perhaps inevitable.
Sometimes the only thing that helps is to talk about my feelings and share them. Perhaps it helps a little to share some of the guilt and shame of being part of this problem.
But then there is the realisation, I know that deep down that I will keep on fighting. Even though it doesn’t feel like I am getting anywhere, you can bet that I will still be there on the beaches giving it a bloody good go!
Special thanks to
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