Laws must plan for plastic waste reduction – 台北時報

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) recently proposed a regulation that would ban tableware made of polylactide (PLA) plastic at eight types of public venues, including schools, convenience stores and restaurants, starting in August.
In 2021, Greenpeace released a report, titled “Biodegradable Plastics: Breaking Down the Facts-Production, Composition and Environmental Impact,” in which it listed five major issues regarding the production, use and environmental impact of biodegradable plastics, and cautioned against letting it enter the market.
With the new regulation, the EPA is taking the first step toward reducing plastics.
However, the EPA only banned stores from using tableware made of PLA, while other PLA products would still be allowed, such as single-use plastic straws, and disposable trays and containers commonly used to package fresh produce and meat in supermarkets and wholesale stores. The EPA should overhaul the regulations.
Greenpeace also advised that, aside from banning PLA, the government should push for a reuse policy to cut down on plastic use.
Statistics have shown that the most common ocean litter is plastic food packaging.
To curb ever-increasing packaging waste, the European Commission proposed a law requiring retailers to have a certain percentage of their goods sold in refillable containers by 2030.
For instance, reusable packaging should be used for 10 percent of alcoholic beverages, 20 percent for non-alcoholic beverages and 10 percent of beverages at cafes and restaurants.
Recent reports across the globe have also shown that, compared with single-use packaging, reusables can reduce environmental impact and bring higher economic benefits.
Further, the EPA should step up efforts to ban chain restaurants from providing disposable tableware to customers for meals consumed on-site, and introduce reusable tableware as an alternative.
As of Jan. 1, France has banned single-use foodware in fast-food chain restaurants, for example McDonald’s have replaced throwaway wrappers with reusable containers for fries, cups and burger boxes. It is estimated that the policy would cut down packaging waste in France by 10,000 tonnes per year.
Germany is also following suit, preparing legislation in which restaurants, bistros or cafes offering takeaway food would also have to provide multi-use packaging to customers.
So far, Taiwan has allowed fast-food chain restaurants and convenience stores to provide disposable “paper” tableware to meals consumed on-site.
However, most paper tableware used in McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, 7-Eleven and FamilyMart still contain plastic.
Research conducted by Greenpeace and National Cheng Kung University last year found that the top 10 merchandise items sold by supermarkets and wholesale stores produce at least 3.6 billion items of plastic waste, weighing about 30,000 tonnes per year.
Aside from banning PLA, the EPA should learn from the European Green Deal and propose new rules on the introduction of reusable packaging.
Only by targeting the roots of plastic consumption and building a reusable model can the nation reduce its plastic waste.
Cony Chang is plastic project leader at Greenpeace East Asia.
Translated by Rita Wang
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