There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.
This year’s Taiwan National Cleanup Day took place on 16 October 2021 at 16 different locations all over Taiwan. Over 1000 volunteers came together to clean the coastlines and to raise awareness about environmental conservation and responsibility. Together, we collected 7,243 KG of trash!
For the past five years, Taiwan National Cleanup Day has taken place as an annual event all across the country, joined by thousands of volunteers, and with the special help of sponsors Roxy Taiwan, Quiksilver, Subs, Wraptie, TSIA, and now Koup too!
The Koup team participated in the Taipei location, and along with many volunteers, collected over 200 KG of garbage along the coastline of The Baisha Bay (白沙灣). We picked up all sorts of garbage, big and small: food wrappers, plastic and glass bottles, plastic straws, lighters, needles, toothbrushes, plastic spoons, fishing nets, clothes, bottle caps, masks, and more.
The growing issue with ocean waste is not new to us or our environment. It is estimated that at the current rate in which garbage ends up in our ocean, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there is fish. So how do we keep our oceans and coastlines free of waste? How do we tackle this issue in order to help our planet, animals, ecosystems, environment, and ourselves?
Why is all this trash ending up in the ocean?
Humans are the source of all this waste. We’ve created all kinds of innovation useful to us, but we are also disposing of these very same products once we are no longer in need of them. According to the Plastic Disclosure Project, “around 33% of plastic manufactured worldwide is used once, then discarded,” while 85% of the world’s plastic is not being recycled. In an earlier blog post, we talked about how much plastic is being produced, how much end up in landfills and incinerators, how much find their way into our oceans and natural environments, and just how much is actually being recycled.
Check out our blog post on plastic waste and the realities of plastic recycling here!
With all this plastic being produced at such a rapid pace, and the majority being single-use plastic, they are bound to end up in the trash almost immediately after they reach consumers’ hands. The more waste we create, the more likely they are to end up in our natural environment, causing harm to marine species and ecosystems while further destroying our climate.
The first obvious reason as to why trash ends up on our beaches and oceans is because people are irresponsibly dumping their trash in nature. This trash is easily brought into the ocean by waves, or stuck in the sand and often mistaken as food by seabirds. The second reason comes down to a lack of recycling facilities as well as the resources regarding recycling in our communities. When recycling services aren’t developed and implemented into our communities, there is a definite lack of understanding on the process, and thus leading to waste being disposed improperly. Trash then ends up in landfills or incinerators rather than recycling plants, and can easily leak into the natural environment.
Cleaning our planet
Through events like Taiwan National Cleanup Day, we get to join our forces and help our planet together. Although cleaning up the coastlines is effective and helpful, this is but scratching the very surface of a much deeper problem we are facing all over the world. We can pick up the visible trash we see stuck in the sand and washed ashore, but the millions of tonnes of garbage and plastic waste in our oceans, both visible and unseen to the naked eye, are still floating around and sinking into the sea.
“Preventing the vast majority of plastic from entering the ocean requires reducing plastic use, finding substitutes for plastics, improving recycling practices, expanding waste collection, and ensuring that disposal facilities prevent plastic leakage as a transitional measure.” – The Pew Charitable Trusts
If we want to tackle the issue of ocean waste, we must get to the root of the problem and develop solutions as well as preventative measures to truly make a long term difference. By minimizing our use of single-use plastic, recycling and upcycling accordingly, switching to more sustainable and low waste lifestyles, and so on, we as individuals can all take part in reducing our overall waste production; the less waste we create, the less waste can end up in the natural environment.
Our current economic system works in a linear manner, meaning that one a product or service reaches the end of its consumer-use, it is not designed to be reused or regenerated. This results in resources and materials ending up as waste even though they still have the chance to be recycled and made into new products. The opposite of a linear economy is the circular economy, where products and services are designed with their end-of life in mind, so that their materials can continue to be reused over and over again, minimizing or even completely designing waste out of the system.
This year marks the Koup team’s first time participating in a beach cleanup event, and it really allowed us to be face-to-face with the issue of ocean and plastic waste. We can pick up the trash we see, but what about all the microplastics that we can’t see? What about all the garbage in the ocean and the ones that have already sunk deep into the ocean floor, being eaten by marine life or trapping them and causing them harm? We are more determined than ever to continue working on realizing circularity as a brand, and to raise awareness about the importance of cleaning and saving our planet.
Have you participated in beach cleanup events? What are some of the strangest and most memorable trash you found? If you’ve never participated in a beach cleanup event, check if your community is hosting one, or even host one yourself with friends and family to help clean up our precious coasts and oceans!