TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The government is planning to introduce new regulations to curb plastic use in certain places next year.
Many places across Taiwan will be barred from providing customers with single-use plastic straws starting July 2019. A number of top hotels around the country have already kicked the habit and are instead using paper straws. It is estimated measures will reduce the consumption of around 300,000 units per year.
The Executive Yuan’s Environmental Protection Administration is to place a ban on the use of plastic straws in four major places: government departments and public buildings, public schools, shopping centers and fast food chains. Around 8000 businesses will be banned from offering single-use straws altogether.
Although the new regulation will only come into effect in July next year, many private businesses have begun adjusting practices already.
The Grand Hyatt in Taipei announced today that it will only be offering paper straws from now on. In addition, it will not actively provide customers with straws unless required for special drinks. The hotel chain wants to help change consumer habits rather than simply offer a less environmentally-damaging alternative.
The Grand Hyatt also announced that it will provide wooden cutlery with take away meals to reduce plastic usage.
The Grand Hyatt in Taipei (Wikimedia Commons)
Despite Taiwan’s comprehensive waste management system and world-leading recycling operations, city governments do not currently recycle plastic straws. Due to their size and flexibility, straws easily get stuck in recycling machinery, so most recyclers do not accept them.
Public outcry after viral videos of animals harmed by plastic waste swept the internet over the past few years has caused authorities all over the world to impose straw bans. Plastic straws do not biodegrade, but instead break into “microplastics”, which now litter oceans and kill up to 10 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals each year.
Industries are bucking straw use of their own accord in many parts of the world but observers have noted replacement solutions do not appear to be much better. Activists are calling for the public to change their habits so that less plastic, or even paper, needs to be used and disposed, regardless of whether it is recyclable or not.
While paper straws and plastic lids may be less harmful to wildlife, they still need to be recycled. As experts reiterated at a circular economy conference last week, incinerators used in recycling plants require huge energy inputs, most often generated from unsustainable sources. Therefore, reusing rather than recycling is much friendlier to the environment.
The Environmental Protection Administration hopes other industries can follow the examples of The Grand Hyatt and Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, who also cut plastic straw use last year, and devote more resources to honoring sustainable business practices.