China, Vietnam biggest sources of litter: study

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China, Vietnam biggest sources of litter: study

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Joe

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Research conducted by Academia Sinica members on Pratas Island (Dongsha Island, 東沙島) in the South China Sea released yesterday showed that China and Vietnam are the main sources of huge amounts of ocean litter that reach the Taiwan-controlled island each year.

China and Vietnam contribute between 47.5 percent and 63.7 percent of the litter found along the coast of Dongsha every month, Academia Sinica research fellow Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修) told a news conference in Taipei, citing the research his team conducted on the island from 2012 to 2016 to track the origins of ocean litter in waters surrounding Taiwan.

The research was aimed at “establishing a scientific foundation for plastics management and marine sustainability,” he said.

By taking monthly samples over a five-year period, Jeng said his team found that several hundred kilograms of ocean litter reach Dongsha annually.

Polystyrene foam and plastic bottles are the two most common types of litter, he said.

Using a technique called the backward-tracking model simulation, Jeng’s team found that litter in the West Philippine Sea is an important contributor to the volume of litter on Dongsha from October to March, whereas from April to September, the litter mainly comes from China and Vietnam.

Academia Sinica assistant research fellow Hsin Yi-chia (辛宜佳), a member of Jeng’s team, said that ocean currents and seasonal winds were found to be the two main factors determining the destination of ocean litter in the South China Sea, adding that 40 percent of ocean litter travels in the ocean for months, increasing the likelihood that it affects marine ecology.

The government’s plastics reduction policy resulted in an observable decline in levels of ocean litter on Dongsha and Penghu in Taiwan Strait, Jeng said.

The aim of the research is to encourage governments worldwide to promote ocean litter management programs on both regional and global scales, he said.

The study was published in the international journal Environmental Research Letters on April 3.

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