Thousands of workers and employers from the plastics industry marched through the streets of Taipei yesterday to demand an immediate halt to a newly implemented environmental policy that limits the use of plastic shopping bags and dinning utensils.
The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), however, reiterated that the policy would not be overturned.
Waving banners bearing slogans, such as "Abuse of Power," "Policy Won't Help Environmental Protection" and "Help, President A-bian," protesters marched from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial to the Presidential Office via the Legislative Yuan.
They also roared "EPA head, step down!" in a swipe at EPA chief Hau Lung-bin (
The controversial policy bans most stores and restaurants from distributing free plastic bags and utensils.
The demonstration was a follow-up to a Dec. 17 march when thousands of worried plastics-industry workers and their families demonstrated in Taipei to ask for a five-year delay of the ban.
Hau, however, insisted that the policy was to be carried out on schedule. Hau said that the Cabinet would spend about NT$1.58 billion this year to create 8,400 jobs for laid-off plastics-industry workers.
Yesterday, a booth was set up at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial to allow affected workers -- an estimated 50,000 people, according to plastics-industry officials -- to register for job opportunities. However, the EPA's action received little attention from protesters.
TSU legislative caucus convener Liao Ben-yan (廖本煙), one of several opposition legislators who joined the march, said the new policy was conceived too quickly and does not look to the long-term.
"The EPA should be responsible for problems regarding the use of plastic materials because it failed to recycle them properly," Liao said.
Chou Ming-hui (
Protesters said that the image of plastic materials had been blackened because the EPA did not provide the public with correct scientific information.
To increase environmental awareness of the production of plastic materials, protesters distributed three truckloads of plastic dinning utensils to the public in front of the Presidential Office.
Protesters said that some of the materials could actually improve the efficiency of incinerators.
Hau reiterated yesterday that the policy would be carried out thoroughly because recent surveys suggest more than 80 percent of the public are in favor of it.
"The EPA will stick to the policy and not make a U-turn," Hau said at a press conference.
Hau said that the environment would eventually benefit from the policy because the consumption of plastic bags and dining utensils had already been dramatically reduced following the implementation of the policy.
Citing EPA statistics, Hau said that the consumption of plastic bags in Taipei County had dropped by 87 percent, while in Taipei City the figure was down by 97 percent.
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