Fri, Aug 16, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Reduce all plastics, not just straws

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven on Monday announced that starting from Sept. 11, it would stop providing plastic straws. This attempt to help conserve the environment and protect marine wildlife deserves praise, but corporations and individuals can do much more to further the cause.

The company said that it would provide plastic cup lids that can be drunk from directly, while offering paper alternatives for drinks that require a straw, such as slushies or bubble tea. However, this policy will do little to convince people that the chain is serious about reducing plastic pollution.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) during a question-and-answer session in May with Environmental Protection Administration Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬) said that producing cup lids, which weigh 2g on average, actually uses more plastic than straws, which weigh 0.6g on average, defeating the purpose of a plastic straw ban.

One solution would be for customers to bring their own containers, allowing them to kick the habit of using plastic straws, lids and cups once and for all.

Convenience store, fast food and beverage chains — which would be saving on overhead — could consider offering more enticing discounts for customers who bring their own reusable containers to encourage more people to adopt the habit.

However, straws are just one type of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. Many other types end up there as well, such as plastic bags and microbeads.

For the plastic reduction campaign to succeed, people must develop an active awareness of and aversion to using single-use plastics in their everyday life in the same way that many people boycott Chinese-made products to prevent Beijing from gaining hegemony over other nations through its economic power. Once such actions become habitual, they would no longer seem an inconvenience.

Apart from their nonbiodegradable properties, another reason to reduce plastic use that has gained considerable attention in the past few years is to protect marine wildlife.

The Ocean Conservation Administration in March found the carcass of a pregnant, 5.65m-long Cuvier’s beaked whale on a beach in Hualien County. An autopsy showed that it had consumed six plastic bags, among other garbage.

The agency last month said that it had received reports of 71 stranded turtles in the second quarter of this year — 24 more than the average reported in the same period in the previous three years.

Among the 48 turtles on which autopsies were performed, 26 were found to have consumed plastic debris, polystyrene foam or metal, the agency said.

The agency has urged the public to reduce the use of plastics to prevent marine animals from consuming them.

Taiwan is blessed with many species of fascinating marine animals, but many of them have become endangered.

While there is little that individuals can do to preserve their natural habitats in the face of corporate interests, reducing plastic use would have a substantial effect in keeping marine creatures from harm. It is a cause that everyone can champion in their daily lives.

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