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Sat, Nov 25, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan firm to promote biodegradable plastic bags

ECOLOGY A local company is going to import Chinese cornstarch into the country in order to make a new type of plastic bag that has a very low environmental impact

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Semi-processed cornstarch will be imported from China next year to be made into biodegradable polythene bags, a local biotechnology company said yesterday.

"We plan to process the raw material in China first because the cost is lower," Felex Chen (陳銘通), general manager of Emperor Biological Appliances (皇上生物科技公司), said yesterday at a press conference.

Chen said that his company was cooperating with a manufacturer in Tianjin (天津), where raw cornstarch is processed.

He said that Emperor would manufacture environmentally friendly biodegradable bags of all varieties. Diverse environmentally friendly products will be available on the market in Taiwan next year, ranging from bin liners, garbage bags, shopping bags, industrial packing film, dining utensils and gardening appliances.

Chen said that the import of these semi-processed goods from China was allowed by the government due to its potential benefits for the environment.

Chen said that few Taiwanese companies were currently producing biodegradable bags and that the technology needed to be improved. But, he said, degradable polymer-related technology was well-developed in China because of a policy due to come into effect soon, which will ban plastic bags.

The first wave of the policy, which will come into effect in January, will ban the use of disposable tableware and plastic bags will be banned soon after.

"It's estimated that about two billion plastic bags are used in China every day," Chen said, adding that the situation has a negative impact on the environment.

Chen said that a new term in China, "white pollution," has been coined to describe the littering habits of train passengers.

"If you look down from above, it's easy to identify where the major railroads are. White plastic meal boxes are littered all along them," Chen said.

Taiwanese scientists said that since polyethylene is not biodegradable, certain special additives such as cornstarch can be added and processed to make it biodegradable.

Chen said that, for the sake of the environment, biodegradable bags deserved to be promoted in Taiwan even though they cost about 1.5 times that of traditional plastic bags.

"So-called `green chemistry' has been promoted in many countries. If 30 percent of the material can be replaced by cornstarch, the production consumes less fuel energy," said Lee Shyh-yang (李世陽), a manager from Union Chemical Laboratories at the Industrial Technology Research Institute.

"Green chemistry" is the use of chemistry to reduce pollution or environmental damage. By reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances associated with a particular synthesis or process, chemists can greatly reduce any damage to human health and the environment.

Lee said that experiments had proved that such products could degrade within months.

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