Taiwan has become inundated with waste after a surge of COVID-19 cases in May prompted movement curbs that led to a spike in online shopping and food deliveries, threatening to set back efforts to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic.
Lin Yu-huei, head of recycling at the Taipei Department of Environmental Protection, said that the amount of discarded takeout containers increased by 85 percent year-on-year in the January-to-May period.
In May alone, Taipei produced 10.79 tonnes of recyclable waste versus 7.05 tonnes a year earlier, the department said.
Much of the waste is single-use tableware, both paper and plastic.
That trend also concerns environmentalists.
“We can’t go back to using single-use tableware every time there is an epidemic outbreak,” said Tang An, a campaigner at Greenpeace Taiwan. “This would mean that all the past efforts at decreasing plastic waste would have been for nothing.”
New Taipei City reported a 50 percent jump in recyclable waste in May compared with a year earlier, Tang said.
While single-use tableware and plastic items are banned in food courts at shopping malls and in supermarkets, most small restaurants and beverage shops, who are also the nation’s biggest source of single-use plastic, are exempt from the policy.
Those are also the companies that have registered the biggest increases in their delivery businesses.
Pan Yen-ming, a chef at the An-Nyeong Korean restaurant in Taipei, said that the restaurant last month spent about NT$20,000 on single-use tableware, increasing his raw materials costs by up to 14 percent.
“I have to confess that I choose to close my eyes to this, I have to forward the social responsibility for this to others, pretending that I don’t know,” he said. “If you don’t package the food in a beautiful way, no one will pay attention to you.”
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