Taipei's new store-branded bags to cut plastic bag use by 20 million

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - Plastic bags have been a headache for recyclers, and the Taipei City government is hatching a new plan to cut the number of plastic bags, if can’t eliminate them entirely.

To reduce the plastic waste, a plan to promote plastic grocery bags as garbage bags may take effect from January 2018 and is projected to result in 20 million fewer plastic bags used per year.

The city’s Department of Environment Protection (DEP) announced Thursday a plan to give a green light to grocery store operators to design their own branded grocery bags that can be reused as a certified garbage bags and will carry anti-counterfeiting labels.

In 2000, Taipei launched the “per-bag trash collection fee program” aimed at increasing recycling and reducing waste, in which each certified garbage bag was charged NT$0.45 per liter. In 2013, the price of each bag was lowered down by 20 percent.

Today in Taiwan, all retail and restaurant outlets are required to charge customers for plastic bags, but around 18 billion plastic bags are still being consumed per year, or an average of 782 per person, nearly four times as much as the EU. To minimize the usage of plastic bags, the Taipei City government then began promoting "reusable garbage bags," which could serve as temporary shopping bags beforehand and are distributed at partnered supermarkets and convenience stores.

The initiative, however, has not worked out well in the city, as the bags sold at the retail outlets are coming into conflict with the store’s own branded and cheaper paid plastic shopping bags, which cannot be reused as a certified trash bags in the city, giving the store less incentive to promote the certified “reusable garbage bags.”

According to Chinese-language Liberty Times, only 3.28 million of the certified “reusable garbage bags” were sold at the retail outlets in the four years since the launch, in sharp contrast to the 25 million paid plastic bags being distributed every year, showing huge room for improvement.

According to the city’s plan, the new certified “reusable garbage bag” will allow designs by each store under regulated shapes, strengths, and degrees of transparency. Each bag will be charged the same price as the existing certified garbage bags, which is NT$6 to NT$69 per bag depending on the size.

The environmental official said that vendors will be subsidized 5.6 percent of the sale price of both the certified garbage bag designed by DEP and the new certified reusable garbage bag designed by the stores.

Approximately 470 tons of trash or 20 million plastic bags will be reduced after the launch of the new plan, according to the official.