Customers visiting fast-food chains might find themselves facing a second lineup the next time they visit their favorite restaurant -- the queue to recycle the different kinds of garbage left over from the meal
Yesterday, he Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) launched a six-month nationwide trial program for recycling tableware and leftovers nationwide at 600 fast-food stores belonging to seven major chains.
At a McDonald's in downtown Taipei, customers who had finished their meals were left wondering what to do with cluttered trays. Instead of the usual overflowing trash can, they now faced four separate disposal units. An impatient elderly man quickly dumped all his garbage into a single trash can, saying that he couldn't be bothered to sort things out.
According to the EPA, when you've finished your hamburger or chicken leg, everything on your tray has to be separated into four categories -- leftovers, recyclable materials, regular waste and liquid waste.
When he was inspecting the McDonald's store, EPA Administrator Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) demonstrated to the public how to separate and classify the different kinds of waste -- including leftovers, ice cubes, unfinished drinks, paper containers and dirty tissues.
"Based on the EPA's previous studies, each customer needs to spend an average of less than one minute to finish the recycling task," Hau said.
Hau stressed that the 400 million customers visiting fast-food chain stores annually were the target of the EPA's environmental education program.
"All concepts of environmental education should be practiced in day-to-day life," Hau said.
For foreign travelers, who cannot read or speak Chinese meals English instructions will be posted on the restaurants' trash cans soon, Hau said.
The recycling push is part of a follow-up to the EPA's policy of limiting the use of plastic bags and disposable tableware. Beginning Jan. 1 next year, the waste program will become compulsory for all fast-food outlets.
Steven Lee (李明元), managing director of McDonald's Restaurants in Taiwan, said that the new environmental regulations will increase the costs of doing business.
Lee said that each of the company's 350 branches in the country has to dedicate more time and manpower to promote recycling. In addition, Lee said, the number of trash cans installed has been almost doubled.
However, Lee said, leaving future generations a good environment was worthwhile.
The EPA estimates that 3,000 tonnes of paper tableware and 2,000 tonnes of leftover food could be recycled from the 600 fast-food chain stores annually. Paper tableware will be sent to three paper factories for pulping and leftovers will be used to produce fertilizers or pig feed.
According to Benjamin Yeh (