More people are taking advantage of free services that help them burn "ghost money" during Ghost Month, the Environmental Protection Administration said yesterday.
"Ghost money" is paper made to resemble bills and is burned as an offering to ghosts. A traditional Chinese belief holds that ghosts emerge from the lower world during the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
A huge amount of ghost money will be burned during the Chung Yuan Festival (
This year's Ghost Festival is tomorrow.
The administration said in a statement yesterday that more Taiwanese are entrusting garbage collectors with the task of burning ghost money in incinerators on their behalf.
The administration said that the quantity of ghost money taken in by the service had jumped from 260 metric tonnes in 2003 to 2,700 metric tons last year.
"This shows that the public has begun to see the benefit of this service," the administration's Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Section Chief Chou Shu-wan (周淑婉) said.
The free service is offered in 15 counties including Taipei, Taichung, Changhua, Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties. Requests from individuals as well as groups are also accepted.
Chou said many are not aware of the hazards that burning incense and "ghost money" pose to human health, referring to a study by the Consumers' Foundation that found that benzene -- which can damage the eyes, skin and central nervous system -- is released into the air by burning ghost money.
Chou said the agency's ultimate goal is to institute a Ghost Month ceremony in which nothing is burned.
In Taipei, Taoyuan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties, city governments have set up Web pages for the public to pay their respects to ghosts online in lieu of burning ghost money.