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Wilderness group urges public to support coastal cleanup

TAIPEI -- The Society of Wilderness (SOW), a civic group dedicated to the protection of Taiwan's natural and ecological environment, called on the public Thursday to take part in a series of coastal cleanup activities to be staged around the country starting this weekend.

Environmentalists in 152 countries and areas around the world, including Taiwan, will hold similar coastal cleanup events Saturday to mark the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day and protect marine biodiversity, the SOW said in a statement.

Each year, the statement said, an estimated 200,000 young albatrosses on the Midway Islands in the Central Pacific die because of marine pollution.

Citing the findings of site surveys, the SOW said, many of the young albatrosses die after eating plastic trash washed up on the beaches of the Midway Islands. Studies show that a mere 20 grams of plastic waste can be fatal to juvenile seabirds, it added.

According to the SOW, Shigeru Fujieda, a professor at Kagoshima University in Japan, once examined the corpses of 1,400 albatrosses that had died from eating plastic cigarette lighters.

The study shows that 48 percent of the discarded lighters came from Japan and 14 percent from Taiwan.

The finding indicates that plastic trash not only threatens Taiwan's environment but also endangers wildlife in the entire Pacific Ocean and its islands, the SOW said.

Apart from albatrosses, many other forms of marine life such as fish, dolphins and sea turtles are killed due to consuming plastic pollution, the organization said.

From 2005 through 2011, the SOW said, discarded plastic bottles picked up during annual ICC Day activities could create a 4,281-meter-high pile — 8.4 times the height of the Taipei 101 building.

It urged local people to avoid using disposable plastic products in their daily lives to help cut plastic consumption.

In addition to plastic trash, large quantities of cigarette butts, glass bottles, glow sticks, lightbulbs, plastic foam items and colored pens are also common sources of marine pollution, the SOW said.

From Saturday, the SOW will organize 25 coastal cleanup events. SOW Secretary-General Lin Chin-pao said that 7,000 volunteers from 45 businesses and social groups have been invited to help clean up 60 kilometers of the country's coastline. Ordinary citizens are also welcome to take part, he added.

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