Plastics ban needs debate: EPA

EFFECTS ON BUSINESSES::Lawmakers asked the EPA minister whether stores that would be affected by a ban on plastic straws in July have prepared alternatives

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, May 07, 2019 - Page 2

The Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) proposed timetable to ban single-use plastic bags, utensils, cups and straws at all venues by 2030 needs more deliberation before being promulgated, EPA Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬) said yesterday.

Chang made the remarks as he was grilled by several lawmakers on the planned ban on single-use straws.

Chang reported the agency’s achievements and plans for limiting the use of disposable plastic products at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.

While then-EPA minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) in February last year announced a four-stage plan to ban disposable plastic products by 2030, the timetable was not backed by careful evaluation about potential problems and alternatives, Chang said.

The plan was produced by the agency’s marine waste disposal platform, which involved eight local environmental groups, said Chang, who served as EPA deputy minister for 13 years before being appointed as its minister in January.

Without cautious planning in advance, bans on single-use plastic products would incur more problems, he added.

For example, the agency has met many challenges after it in June last year proposed a draft ban on single-use plastic straws to dine-in customers at government agencies, public and private schools, department stores and fast-food chains, Chang said.

While the straw ban is to take effect in July, many lawmakers questioned whether stores that would be affected by it have prepared alternatives and why biodegradable straws would not be banned.

Biodegradable straws are eco-friendly only under certain composting conditions, but as the nation lacks a proper recycling system for such straws, they would mostly end up in incinerators, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Alicia Wang (王育敏) and Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) said.

Manufacturers have to obtain EPA certification to sell biodegradable straws, Chang said, adding that only one company has applied for certification so far.

Given inadequate recycling processes for biodegradable straws, the agency would assess whether to ban them by July next year, he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Hsiu-fang (黃秀芳) asked whether the government’s policies to reduce plastic use since 2002 have been effective, citing Ministry of Economic Affairs data showing that the number of firms producing plastic wrappings and bags has been rising.

The amount of consumed plastic shopping bags is decreasing, but that of plastic wrappings is not, probably due to a surge in online shopping, EPA Department of Waste Management Director-General Lai Ying-ying (賴瑩瑩) said.

The agency would encourage e-commerce operators to propose plans for reducing unnecessary packaging waste and establish guidelines later, she said.