Taiwan Soon to be Plastic Free
By Xavier Sun
Taiwan was once famously known for having a big plastic production industry, especially the “Formosa Plastics.” But citizens’ mindsets have gradually changed: people are more aware about plastic pollution, the toxic materials embedded in plastic products, and the effects of marine plastic litter on the environment and human health.
Today, Taiwan is among the countries seriously fighting the production and use of plastic through bans. The following is a rundown of the bans that have just taken effect or are to take effect within 10 years.
No Single-use Plastic Products by 2030
In 2017, eight grassroots environmental NGOs and the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) established a Marine Waste Management Platform with the purpose of phasing out single-use plastic products. The NGOs include Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Greenpeace Taiwan, Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation, Taiwan Environmental Information Association, the Society of Wilderness, Ocean Citizen Foundation, Hi-in Studio, and Lee-zen Foundation.
The Marine Waste Management Platform is an equal platform between government officials and grassroots NGOs where departments of Taiwan EPA meet with NGOs regularly about top-ranking plastic marine litters—PET bottles and their caps, plastic bags, disposable utensils, plastic straws, and single-use take-away beverage cups.
After dozens of meetings, the Taiwan EPA and the eight NGOs came up with a timeline to reduce and eliminate single-use plastic products. The timelines of restriction and total ban of single-use plastic products are:
- Beginning January 1, 2019, major restaurants and coffee shops will not be allowed to provide plastic straws to customers inside their stores.
- Beginning 2020, all stores that required providing invoices cannot give plastic bags for free, and they also cannot provide plastic straws, disposable utensils, and disposable cups to in-store customers.
- Beginning 2025, ALL STORES in Taiwan cannot provide plastic bags, disposable utensils, straws, and single-use cups for free; customers all over Taiwan have to pay for these single-use plastic items.
- Finally in 2030, no single-use plastic items are allowed to be manufactured, imported, and sold anywhere in Taiwan, which means that Taiwan will be a single-use plastic-free country.
Ban on Microbead-containing Personal Care Products
In 2014, Taiwan Watch Institute started to filter plastic microbeads in facial wash and body wash products. Although the media has published several times that microbeads are actually cheap plastics and have no exfoliating effect at all, it was only when the Research Associate of Taiwan Watch Institute isolated the plastic microbeads and compared it to the products’ volume that customers felt shocked and finally took the issue seriously—because seeing is believing, and people and the media like images much more than just words.
After numerous media coverage and several press conferences, Taiwan Watch Institute and Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association finally got the chance to talk to the EPA officials, and introduced a ban on adding plastic microbeads in personal care products. No importation and manufacture has been allowed since Jan 1, 2018, and no sale and usage will be allowed beginning July 1, 2018.
Taiwan and Korea are currently the only countries in Asia that are implementing a microbead ban. To encourage and support similar measures in other countries, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association’s Zero Waste Researcher Xavier Sun is sharing experiences with NGOs in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia to support local campaigns against microbeads.
Phasing-Down of PVC Production
Taiwan Watch Institute and Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association are currently discussing a phase-down timeline for PVC resins and products with the PVC manufacturing industry and the EPA’s Department of Waste Management. Since PVC is harmful to the environment and human health from production to final disposal, the Department of Waste Management is planning a gradual phase-down of PVC production. In the next few months, consultations with citizens will take place, and the public will have the right to decide whether to ban the production of PVC or not. Wild at Heart is making communications materials such as infographics and documentaries about PVC, and hopefully when the public understands the dangers of PVC, they will vote for a quick phase-down of PVC resins and products.
Xavier Sun is Zero Waste Researcher, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan and is a member of the GAIA East Asia Regional Advisory Committee Member.
This article appears on the first issue of Waste Not Asia, the official publication of GAIA Asia Pacific.
(Waste Not Asia, Vol. 1, Issue 1, January to March 2018. pp. 16-20)