Taiwan Sets Aggressive Timeline to Ban Straws and Other Single-Use Plastics

Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with a number of environmental organizations, proposed an ambitious 12-year timeline Tuesday to eliminate four types of single-use plastics—takeaway beverage cups, drinking straws, shopping bags and disposable tableware—by 2030 to tackle plastic pollution.

Taiwan, the birthplace of bubble tea, is famous for its unique food and drink culture, but the plastic vessels that come with the treats make up the vast majority of the country's beach litter. Additionally, the Tamsui River in the north was declared the 16th dirtiest river in the world for leaching 14,700 tons of plastic debris into the ocean every year.

Now, under the government's new " Sea Waste Management Platform," the four environmentally pervasive plastic products will be phased out in several stages, with a priority on drinking straws.

As Taiwan News detailed:

  • Starting in 2019, food and beverage stores will be restricted from providing plastic straws for in-store use. In 2020, free plastic straws will be banned from all food and beverage establishments.
  • Starting in 2025, even plastic straws for carryout will be banned and customers will need to pay a fee to use them. In 2030, the goal is to have a complete blanket ban on the use of plastic straws at all establishments in Taiwan.
  • As for plastic shopping bag phase, the EPA will implement a ban on all stores that issue uniform invoices in 2020. In 2025, prices on plastic shopping bags will be raised, and by 2030 such bags are to be completely banned.
  • Starting in 2020, food and beverage businesses will not be allowed to provide customers inside their establishments with disposable utensils. In 2025, a price system will be implemented on disposable tableware, and by 2030 a complete ban will be imposed on disposable utensils.
  • In 2020, plastic beverage cups will be restricted and by 2025 users will have to pay an extra fee to use them. By 2030 take-away beverage cups will be completely banned.

At a press conference announcing the plan, Environmental Protection Agency Minister Lee Ying-yuan advised that single-use plastics can be switched with reusable or biodegradable items.

Along with the phase-out of plastic items, the Sea Waste Management Platform also involves dozens of initiatives to clean up existing plastic litter and to stop its flow from the source. Programs include raising public awareness, river trash removal, a microfibers and microplastics survey program, and a "public-private cooperation" model of cooperation.

McDonald's Taiwan has already said it will cooperate with the government regulations and promote green consumption.

Taiwan Today further reported:

"EPA Minister Lee Ying-yuan said protecting the ocean necessitates cooperation among all segments of society. The plan is a strong step forward in this regard and a milestone in tailoring responsive policies through input from the public and private sectors, he added.

According to Lee, rubbish-strewn oceans are a pressing global issue and Taiwan, as a responsible member of the international community, is committed to playing its part in rectifying the situation. As identified in the plan, the best way of addressing this problem is slashing the number of debris sources, he said."

A number of countries around the world have taken big steps to cut plastic waste. Chile prohibits the sale of single-use plastic bags in 102 coastal villages and towns. Kenya introduced a serious law that slaps a fine or even a jail sentence on anyone who manufactures, sells or even carries a plastic bag. And just last month, Scotland announced plans to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds.