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Sat, Jan 29, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Legislators force an end to EPA recycling initiative

ACCUSATIONS Legislators say an incentive scheme for the public to recycle PET bottles is now foundering in a sea of debt, and they are blaming the debacle on poor management and planning by the EPA

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A recent survey indicates the number of PET bottles collected has outstripped the number manufactured over the past two years, causing the EPA's Recyclable Resources Foundation to lose NT$1 billion.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Legislators said yesterday that massive losses incurred by a plastic bottle recycling program should be blamed on the management of the project, and not on the system of rewards offered to consumers as an incentive to recycle.

The PET bottle (保特瓶) recycling program has lost as much as NT$1 billion, the legislators said.

At a press conference yesterday, DPP legislator Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟) provided some recent statistics that showed the number of PET bottles collected nationwide from the beginning of 1998 until the end of 1999 far outstripped the number manufactured.

The total figure was 146 percent of the number of bottles reportedly manufactured -- a figure that suggests bottle production is going unreported.

"This highlights the need for an urgent change to existing recycling policy," Lai said, referring to claims that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) had failed to properly examine the PET bottle market.

Lai said that manufacturers have understated their production to avoid paying a required sum of money proportional to their total bottle production, to offset money paid out to consumers by the EPA for bottles they recycle.

"In addition to understating their production, plastic container manufacturers sometimes sell imperfect products directly to retailers that recycle used containers," Lai said.

According to statistics from the EPA in 1997, about 1.22 percent of flawed PET bottles -- which never made it to the market -- have been recycled as if they were actually used. However, it is believed that the real situation could be far worse than statistics show.

Lai also said that the EPA rewarded consumers with NT$1 for each bottle recycled, while only charging manufacturers NT$0.7 per bottle produced.

In a bid to slow the rate of financial loss, the EPA decided early this month to downwardly adjust the existing per-bottle refund from NT$1 to NT$0.5 for consumers who recycle PET bottles, to be effective from March.

In addition, the EPA announced that refunds would be canceled altogether in September to avoid further financial losses.

However, legislators said that the cancelation of the refund was not the ultimate solution to existing financial losses. Fixing the flawed recycling policy should be the first priority for the EPA's Recyclable Resources Foundation (資源回收基金會), they said.

Foundation officials, responding to the legislators' accusations, said inspection of PET bottle production would be carried out more strictly, and debts owed by manufacturers would be pursued.

Officials said that the cancelation of the refund was intended to eliminate the loss-making situation, adding that the NT$1 per bottle was available only for PVC containers, including PET bottles, one of 29 types of recyclable containers listed by the EPA.

"The reward strategy was to encourage people to recycle reusable materials, such as PET bottles, because recycling was un almost unheard of phenomenon at the time," said Shen Chih-shiou (沈志修), an foundation official.

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