Legislators yesterday criticized the Environmental Protection Admin-istration's (EPA) new policy to ban plastic shopping bags and disposable dining utensils from July, saying that the agency lacks concern for the plastics industry and the water shortages in Taiwan.
The EPA finalized its policy in February, announcing that retailers at certain locations would be prohibited from July 1 from offering customers free plastic shopping bags and disposable dining utensils. Meanwhile, disposable dining utensils would also be banned from restaurants from July 1.
The new regulations would affect publicly-operated grocery shops and restaurants at government buildings, public and private educational establishments and military organizations.
Although the policy has provoked a backlash from manufacturers of plastic shopping bags and disposable dining utensils, EPA head Hau Lung-bin (
Hau's resolution received Premier Yu Shyi-kun's support in February. The EPA has announced that the second stage of the anti-pollution campaign would affect all private shopping centers, grocery stores, department stores and fast-food chains from Jan. 1 next year.
Yesterday, TSU lawmaker Liao Pen-yen (
"What if a water crisis happens in the future? How would restaurant operators rinse used dining containers?" Liao asked.
Hau said that the EPA did not ban dinner utensils made from paper and maybe that would be an option.
He also stressed that the policy would result in positive effects for waste management.
"If the first two stages of the policy can be carried out thoroughly, 30 percent of the plastic materials in waste would be reduced," Hau said.
"Plastic materials in waste have been over-burdening incinerators and has led to the prevalence of dioxin pollution in the air."
According to EPA statistics, 20 percent of the nation's garbage is plastic, far higher than the 10 percent of many other developed countries.
Taiwanese consumers use an estimated 20 billion plastic shopping bags per year. On average, each resident uses 2.5 plastic shopping bags daily. Meanwhile, Taiwan consumes 22 million plastic dinner containers per day.
DPP legislators Lai Chin-lin (
They said the move will hurt garbage-collectors, who survive from recycling PET bottles and other reusable materials.
Hau said that the EPA would not cancel the payments until the end of March and people can still receive NT$0.5 for each PET bottle they collect until the end of September.