Garbage littering a beach. [Image: athima tongloom / Getty Images]

US-Taiwan Partnership Recognizes Youth's Solution to Marine Litter

Taiwan Asia

Routine beach clean-ups, community-led art classes, and a global platform to support local artists- this is Chen Yu An’s vision for addressing marine litter in the coastal villages of Taiwan. According to United Nations Environment Programme most recent report, marine litter’s economic cost with respect to its impact on tourism, fisheries, aquaculture and clean-up were around 6-19 billion dollars globally in 2018. Hence, with this proposal, Chen hopes to solve one of the most significant environmental issues.

“Sea! We Art Ready” is an award-winning proposal developed by Taiwanese youth Chen Yu An. With the ultimate goal of giving back to her community, Chen approaches marine pollution through an intersectional lens by considering the social and economic interests of local communities.

Chen submitted her proposal to the 2021 Youth Innovation Challenge set forth by the Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP), a collaborative organization started by the Taiwanese and American environmental protection agencies and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). Founded in 2014, the GEEP is a global learning network that addresses climate change issues through environmental education. In the past year, for example, the GEEP collaborated with the National Taiwan University to address the differences between Taiwan and United States’ climate change education. The bilateral workshop focused on ways to apply climate change education for their respective schools and communities. In addition to working together with governments, the GEEP also encourages young people to contribute to their mission by launching the Youth Innovation Challenge.

The Youth Innovation Challenge, the GEEP’s first youth innovation contest, empowers young people around the world to develop creative solutions to the complex social and environmental issues presented by climate change and marine litter. Apart from having the benefits of being recognized by the GEEP, the YIC also offers the winners a prize of $1000 dollars towards implementing their projects. In the competition with over 140 applicants across 43 countries, Chen’s proposal was chosen as a finalist and then, one of the four winners.

In her proposal, Chen suggests beach cleanups and recycled art classes combine into a single program. Her program’s participants would assemble at local beaches to sort marine litter into three categories: trash, recyclables, and art materials. Afterward, local volunteers would lead art classes that transform the collected art materials into recycled masterpieces. But that’s not all Chen proposes the creation of an internet platform that showcases recycled works from local artists. These art pieces can then be purchased by buyers across the globe, with profits being reinvested into the program and supporting local artists. With growing popularity, Chen envisions her program collaborating with big-name brands like Adidas to promote the widespread production of recycled goods.

Although Chen’s proposal is tailored to villages in Taiwan, it could be expanded to coastal communities everywhere. As a reason for this initiative, Chen says she wanted to “start small from what people around us could all be a part of.”

Ruivaldo F. Viana is a participant of the Young Professional Program at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. He is a senior undergraduate student at Luther College studying Economics with a focus on Environmental Policy.