Sun, Oct 30, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Plastic bag rules to be extended

WASTE DECISION:The Environmental Protection Administration said that thickness requirements would be dropped from bags that stores are required to charge for

By Yang Mien-chieh, Wang Chieh and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Nearly 70,000 stores are to be added to those ordered to stop providing free plastic bags, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said.

Stores from seven business categories were on the list, with the regulation to apply to them from Jan. 1, 2018, the EPA said, adding that its aim is to reduce waste.

The restriction will not apply to businesses like bakeries where food comes into direct contact with plastic bags, it said.

The EPA introduced measures in 2002 to reduce the use of plastic bags, after which government departments, public and private schools, department stores, shopping centers, wholesale stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and other major retail establishments were required to charge customers for plastic bags.

The regulations said the bags could not be thicker than 0.06mm and stipulated fines of between NT$1,200 and NT$6,000 for establishments found repeatedly giving away bags or using bags that were too thick.

Pharmacies, medical equipment stores, camera and cellphone retailers, bookstores and stationery retailers, laundromats, beverage stores and bakeries were among those to come under the regulations in 2018, the EPA said, adding that according to its two-stage implementation, an additional 90,000 businesses would be added later.

The agency said it would rescind the thickness requirement for plastic bags, while stores would remain in control of how much they charged.

Additionally, retailers in cities where rubbish bags are regulated will be required to offer approved bags as an option for shoppers, so that one bag could meet two needs, it said.

Taipei, New Taipei City and Shihgang District (石崗) in Taichung have rules that say waste must be thrown out in approved, store-bought rubbish bags.

Taiwan Watch Institute secretary general Herlin Hsieh (謝和霖) asked why there was a wait for the rules to be implemented.

“If the new rules simply expand the scope of existing measures, why wait 14 months to implement them?” Hsieh asked.

Hsieh called on the EPA to levy tariffs on plastic bag producers, rather than telling businesses not to give away bags for free.

Kaohsiung-based Conservation Mothers Foundation called for regulations on plastic bag prices, saying increasing the cost would be the only way the measures would be effective.

New policies must be introduced slowly, the EPA said, adding that it would hold public hearings to get feedback from the public.

Drinks retailer Red Sun Tea Shop said that while it would cooperate with the regulations, it hopes that chain drinks retailers would not be unfairly targeted, adding that online, non-chain drinks retailers should also come under the rules.

Drinks retailer 50 Lan said that customers are so used to having bags offered to them at no charge that suddenly charging for bags would cause considerable inconvenience.

A resident named Chu Chien-fu (朱建甫) said: “This is great! There are already some stores that do not offer free bags and it can be inconvenient, but I applaud this type of policy change.”

Another resident named Lei Tzu-ching (雷子青) said that if the policy covers drink retailers and bakeries then he will definitely find it inconvenient at first, but added that people should use reusable bags to protect the environment.

Additional reporting by Shen Pei-yao and Hung Chen-hung

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