Sun, Dec 23, 2018 - Page 2 News List

Policy cut 1.5bn plastic bags this year: EPA

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

A man drinks from a McDonald’s cup in Taipei on Feb. 13.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Additional measures restricting plastic bag use that were implemented in January have resulted in 1.5 billion fewer plastic bags being used over the past year, an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official said yesterday, adding that the agency would start limiting the use of plastic straws from July next year.

The agency in January expanded its ban on free plastic shopping bags from seven to 14 kinds of businesses, including beverage and bakery stores, and people who need bags now have to pay for them.

Nearly 80 percent of people do not ask for free plastic bags when shopping now, and many have developed the habit of bringing their own reusable bags, EPA Department of Waste Management senior technical specialist Lee Yi-hua (李宜樺) said.

The agency has this year inspected 90,000 stores across the nation and issued 118 warnings to those found in contravention of the ban, he said, adding that only two stores received fines for failing to rectify the matter after being warned.

Transgressors face a fine of NT$1,200 to NT$6,000 for breaching the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法) and starting from next month, officials are to issue fines without giving warnings first, the EPA has said.

The policy is proving effective in curbing the amount of waste plastic bags found on beaches, the Society of Wilderness said last week, but added that the amount of plastic straws is still alarming.

The agency in June announced draft guidelines to prohibit restaurants at government agencies, public and private schools, public hospitals, department stores, shopping malls and fast food chains from offering single-use plastic straws to customers “dining in.”

Although the guidelines caused controversy when they were announced, as some assumed that plastic straws would be entirely banned, more people have since learned of similar policies in other countries, as well as alternative straws that are better for the environment, Lee said.

The agency is still soliciting views from the public and plans to hold public hearings on the guidelines next year, he said, adding that the new rule is scheduled to take effect from July.

Production and imports of cleansing products containing plastic microbeads have been banned since January and their sale has been banned since July.

Only one manufacturer and two stores have been fined for failing to obey the regulations after receiving warnings, Lee said, adding that very few were fined because the agency had advertised the policies for a long time.

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