Microplastics found in remote Taiwan forests habitats, home to numerous protected species

Posted on : 2022-08-24 17:29 KST Modified on : 2022-08-24 17:29 KST
Research by Greenpeace found microplastics in the droppings of multiple species that call Taiwan’s secluded forests home
The Kinmen Eurasian otter is a protected species found in Taiwan. (courtesy Greenpeace)
The Kinmen Eurasian otter is a protected species found in Taiwan. (courtesy Greenpeace)

Microplastics have been found in the droppings of multiple protected species living in the remote forests of Taiwan. This shows that plastic used by humans is entering the bodies of animals in remote ecosystems that are far from human habitation.

Greenpeace East Asia’s Taipei office announced Tuesday that 604 microplastic pieces, including fragments and fibers, were found in 112 feces samples that researchers had collected from Formosan black bears, Formosan sambar deer, Kinmen Eurasian otters, yellow-throated martens and leopard cats since last year. The same study found 1,323 microplastic pieces in samples of water taken from the habitats of the five species.

“The range of microplastic sizes found in the feces is slightly smaller than that of the habitat. This could be attributed to the fact that microplastics found in the water had already gone through the digestion processes of organisms,” Greenpeace said.

“The microplastics concentration levels of some of the above mentioned feces samples are even higher than that of domesticated cattle’s manure as documented in some studies.”

Microplastic can refer to pieces of plastic that were either made small or that became small after breaking off a product. Official definitions vary, with microplastic pieces defined as measuring less than 5 mm long by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and less than 1 mm long by South Korea’s Ministry of Environment.

Since microplastics are not filtered by water treatment facilities, they enter rivers and oceans, disrupting ecosystems and accumulating in the bodies of living organisms.

Once ingested, microplastic is known to have both physical toxicity (including organ inflammation, necrosis and immune cell suppression) and chemical toxicity (including carcinogenesis and impact on the reproductive system). Research is ongoing into the potential damage to the human body.

Greenpeace posited that the microplastic found in feces samples originated in single-use plastics, including bags, bottles, cups and straws.

The Formosan black bear is a protected species found in Taiwan. (courtesy Greenpeace)
The Formosan black bear is a protected species found in Taiwan. (courtesy Greenpeace)

“Of all the microplastics found across all samples of water, feces and insects, the most common polymer types are polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP),” Greenpeace’s report read. “It can be reasonably inferred that the PE and PP microplastics found in the current study could possibly be traced back to food and beverage containers and packages.

“It’s hard to imagine just how badly polluted the food chains and habitat of protected species are, even those that are remotely located and live far from human activity or rarely interact with humans,” said Tang An, a campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia’s Taipei office.

“Ocean and mountain cleanups or recycling are not enough to solve plastic pollution. One of the biggest problems lies in today’s large-scale throwaway plastic production by big corporations, and the lack of government actions to regulate them,” An said.

Greenpeace offered the following suggestions to the Taiwanese government.

“In the near-term, the government can start by [. . .] setting a timetable for phasing out single-use plastic packaging inside national parks and routinely monitoring the level of plastic pollution in habitats. In the long-term, a timetable for the overall reduction of single-use plastic packaging should be set.”

The environmental group also made an appeal to corporations, suggesting that companies and corporations strive for the reduction of single-use plastic packaging and transition to a “reusable packaging model.”

By Kim Yoon-ju, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles