The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said it is planning to cancel restrictions on the thickness of plastic shopping bags provided by shops, and move toward banning shops, such as bakeries, dry cleaners or bookstores, from providing free plastic shopping bags to costumers.
The EPA began a policy in 2002 that prohibits stores — including convenience stores, fast-food chains, department stores, supermarkets, malls, hypermarkets and restaurants — from providing free plastic shopping bags to customers, and placing restrictions on the plastic bags sold, now often costing NT$1 or NT$2 and required to be at least 0.06mm thick.
The restriction on the plastic shopping bags’ thickness was meant to encourage customers to reuse the bags and prevent plastic bag manufacturers from benefiting too greatly from the policy.
However, a couple of Chinese-language newspapers yesterday said an EPA report showed that the agency is planning to announce the cancelation of restrictions on the plastic bags’ thickness next year, implement the change in 2015 and broadening the ban on providing free plastic shopping bags to cover more types of stores in 2016.
In response to the reports, the EPA released a statement yesterday saying it indeed has such policy plans, but the implementation schedule has not been set.
Since the policy was put in place in 2002, the number of plastic bags used at regulated stores has fallen from about 3.435 billion per year to about 1.43 billion per year — reducing the number of bags used by 2.005 million per year, the EPA said.
The agency cited opinion polls showing that 77.1 percent of respondents said they have reduced the number of plastic shopping bags they used after the policy was implemented, and that about 71 percent of customers shopping at hypermarkets and supermarkets, and 43.4 percent of customers shopping at convenience stores bring their own shopping bags.
The agency added that it is planning to cancel the restriction on plastic bag thickness because the polls from recent years showed that about 70 percent of respondents are used to bringing their own shopping bags, so the percentage of people reusing purchased plastic bags has dropped, and allowing the bags to become thinner can reduce the amount of plastic used even more.
As for the type of stores that will be banned from providing free plastic shopping bags to customers in the future, the agency said it would have to further evaluate and discuss the issue with different sectors to come up with a more thorough program, before a schedule or its implementation can be set.