Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) will implement a system next March to recycle polylactic acid (PLA) containers in order to cut down on pollution, EPA Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen said Thursday.
At a question-and-answer session in the legislature, Shen said that the EPA will ask drink manufacturers to clearly mark bottles and containers made from PLA, so that recyclers would be able to identify and differentiate between PLA containers and other recyclable items.
Ho Shun-chin, director of the EPA's Department of Waste Management, said that by the end of November the EPA will officially list PLA containers as recyclable items and will complete arrangements for a PLA recycling system by March 1, 2010.
Noting that the current production volume of PLA is 15 million tons a year, Ho said that the EPA will urge PLA manufacturers to set up recycling centers for the material in cities and counties around the country.
The officials were responding to a comment by opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying that since the EPA launched a green policy in 2003, it has asked supermarkets and hypermarkets to reduce the use of plastic bags and conventional plastic containers, which has led to a significant increase in the use of the fully biodegradable PLA.
So far, more than 70 percent of the containers on the market are made from PLA, but there is no recycling system in place for that material, according to Huang.
PLA, a plastic substitute made from fermented corn starch, is usually used to make transparent containers for food, and looks like the petroleum-based plastics.
PLA is biodegradable, but can only be broken down under specific temperature conditions and cannot be recycled along with other items, Huang said.
Another major problem is the lack of recycling symbols on PLA containers for their disposal, Huang said, noting that they are usually incinerated or buried.
(By Liu Kuang-yin and Y.L. Kao)