Sat, Mar 30, 2002 - Page 2 News List

EPA rebuffs plastics firms

WASTE MANAGEMENT The plastics industry begged the government to revise its timetable for banning plastic bags and utensils, saying 100,000 families were affected

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Representatives of the plastic industry said yesterday that the Environmental Protection Admin-istration (EPA) should revise both the details and the time frame given for launching a ban on plastic bags and utensils.

The representatives said the revised plan should try and decrease the move's negative impact on the "100,000 families" who depend on the industry.

Being responsive to plastic products manufacturers, EPA head Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said he understands the industry's plight and details such as the maximum thickness of plastic bags, can be re-discussed. But he said it would be virtually impossible to adjust the time frame.

The EPA announced in February that starting July 1, retailers at certain locations would be prohibited from offering customers free plastic shopping bags and disposable dining utensils.

The regulations would affect publicly-operated grocery stores and restaurants at government buildings, public and private educational establishments and military organizations.

The second stage of the policy would begin Jan. 1. Places affected will include department stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and almost every type of retailer, except street vendors.

The EPA will also regulate the thickness of plastic bags being used at stores.

New regulations will eliminate plastic bags with a thickness of less than 0.1mm because people tend to discard thin plastic bags, which burden waste incinerators.

Bags with a thickness exceeding 0.1mm, however, will remain available, but people will have to pay a fee at the checkout counter.

Yesterday, at a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan, representatives of the plastic industry said that the ban would make their lives tougher because the output of the industry has already gone down by 11.2 percent, falling to NT$225.7 billion last year from NT$304.7 billion in 2000.

In 2000, the output accounted for 5 percent of Taiwan's total manufacturing output.

Representatives from the industry said the ban has come at a bad time because analysts have said that Taiwan's plastic industry will not revive within the next three years.

"Before you [the EPA] assist roughly 100,000 employees in switching to other lines of business, how can you just announce this destructive policy without giving us time to adjust?" said Chou Ming-hui (周明輝), executive-general of Taiwan Plastics Commercial Association Union.

In addition, the representatives said that the EPA had decided on the thickness of plastic bags without considering technical factors.

"The thickness set for plastic bags is too unrealistic," said Hsieh Sheng-hai (謝勝海), secretary-general of Taiwan Plastics Industry Association.

Technically speaking, Hsieh said, it is not easy for most manufacturers to produce high-density polyethylene with the equipment at their disposal.

Some representatives said the EPA should offer them compensation for forcing them to purchase new equipment and for assisting their employees to find new jobs.

The EPA warned earlier this month that the fortunes of the plastic industry will be hurt because manufacturers are expected to consume 36,000 tonnes less of the polluting material within one-and-a-half years after the policy's implementation -- a drop of 3.5 percent from current consumption rates.

Independent legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) said that the EPA should postpone the beginning of the second stage in order to help the plastics industry prepare.

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