Wed, Sep 26, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The barbecue dilemma

It is always a shame when a tradition comes under fire due to poor etiquette, but if people cannot clean up their act, then they might have to suffer the consequences.

The Taipei Times yesterday reported that the Taipei City Government is mulling enforcing a ban on barbecuing at riverside parks and barbecue sites — “but would not do so until it has held more discussions on the issue or conducted an online poll.”

This was the first Mid-Autumn Festival when the city has not issued notices on the areas where barbecuing is permitted, showing that it might phase out the practice, which would be a blow to festivities, as not everyone has a front yard or a rooftop where they can grill their food.

This is a tradition that has only been around for the past two or three decades, but it seems to have gained popularity over the years, with events held from 1,000-people barbecue block parties to fancy cookouts on the rooftops of five-star hotels.

Its environmental impact definitely needs to be considered, but unlike incense burning at temples, this is a once-a-year event and there are many other pollution sources to address before banning what is a yearly celebration and gathering for many families across the nation.

Americans fire up their grills every year during Independence Day celebrations — imagine what would happen if that were to be banned.

However, it is exactly because it is a once-a-year celebration that most of the equipment is disposable — sold en masse at all major retailers and small shops, causing a massive amount of waste.

As the government is banning plastic straws and bags, and looking at other ways to encourage environmentally friendly behavior, it should also consider promoting environmentally friendly barbecuing instead of banning it outright. Eco-friendly and portable barbecue devices can easily be bought online.

It should also educate people on sustainable, healthy and less-polluting barbecue methods. Many Web sites provide green grilling tips, which are not that much of a hassle.

However, more worrisome is the city government saying that “picnickers in the parks often failed to clean up after themselves and remove their garbage.”

This remains a huge problem in Taiwan, as parks and nature sites are often inundated with all kinds of trash.

Some river-tracing or hiking companies have ceased to provide disposable bowls and utensils for their clients, requiring everyone to bring their own.

This is a trend that should catch on in all areas. It should be basic etiquette for people to “leave nothing behind.”

Littering is not acceptable behavior for a developed nation that is so advanced in other areas.

If people cannot follow the rules, maybe barbecuing in public spaces should be banned for the time being to show that the city is serious.

However, education is still the most important aspect, as barbecuers will likely find other places to grill, even worse, fire up their grills illegally in secret locations, which would turn an environmental issue into a public hazard.

As there seems to be various viewpoints on the matter, with some saying that the pollution from one day’s worth of nationwide grilling is minimal, it is probably better to leave the final say to the public.

However, like reusable straws, promoting green grilling should be obvious.

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