Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Plastic bag rule to be scaled back

POLICY FAILURE Small restaurants will be exempted from a regulation requiring them to charge for plastic bags because the measure failed to reduce bag use


A worker packs take-out orders at a small restaurant yesterday. Regulations requiring such establishments to charge for plastic bags will be scrapped in March, as they have caused an increase in the quantity of plastic used.


A rule restricting small eateries from handing out plastic bags will be canceled in March as the measure has increased the amount of plastic bags used by these businesses, officials said yesterday.

The restrictions, set in 2002 by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), aimed to reduce plastic waste and targeted six major groups -- department stores and shopping malls, mega retail stores, supermarkets, convenience store chains, restaurant chains, and smaller eating and drinking establishments.

The restrictions stipulated that plastic bags offered to customers could not be less than 0.06mm thick and must not be given out for free.

He Shun-chin (何舜琴), director of the Department of Waste Management under the EPA, said that starting on March 1, the plastic bag restrictions for eateries will be lifted.

The policy will continue to apply to the other five groups, since the rule had worked satisfactorily for them.

The amount of plastic bags used in eateries, however, had increased by an average of 5,000 tonnes per year, He said.

He said that Taiwanese commonly eat at small eateries, where many plastic bags are needed for customers buying take-out soup dishes, noodles and other high-temperature items.

She said that although the restrictions were to be lifted for these stores, the administration aims to enforce the reuse and recycling of plastic bags.

The administration will also start "experimentally" recycling plastic bags starting in May, and it hopes to officially establish a plastic bag recycling policy in January of 2008, He said.

In addition, it will officially start restricting the use of plastic utensils in the cafeterias of schools and government agencies starting in July.

Limits on plastic bags

* In 2002 the EPA set out rules preventing six types of retailers from handing out plastic bags for free.

* Small restaurants were one of the groups targeted and were required to use thicker bags and charge for them.

* But plastic bag use by small restaurants has risen by an average of 5,000 tonnes per year since then.

* The restrictions have proved effective for the other five groups, however, and will remain in effect for them.

The plan, once carried out, will cut the use of plastic by schools and government agencies by approximately 2,600 tonnes per year, He said.

Night markets and vendors will also be encouraged to stop using plastic utensils, although this will not be enforced, she added.

He said the utensils to be used should be washable and reusable.

The administration also hopes to start managing the amount of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products sent to incinerators starting in September since PVC, a widely used plastic, releases dioxins when burned or melted.

However, EPA officials were unsure of the feasibility of these "experimental" policies and unclear on how the policies would actually be carried out.

He said that the administration hopes to make official announcements regarding the policies before March 1.

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