Taiwan's ban on plastic straws kicks in today

The last straw: Ban on single-use plastic straws goes into effect on July 1

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(Photo by PublicDomainPictures.net user George Hodan)

(Photo by PublicDomainPictures.net user George Hodan)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's ban on the use of single-use plastic straws goes into effect today (July 1), although those who order take-out or delivery will receive a reprieve, for now.

In May, the EPA announced that its "Restriction on the Use of single-use Plastic Straws" would apply to government departments, schools, department stores, shopping malls, and fast food chains. Violators will first receive a warning and incur a fine of between NT$1,200 (US$38) and NT$6,000 if the offense continues, according to the EPA.

For now, plastic straws can still be given to customers who order take-out or delivery. At a legislative hearing on the government's waste recycling policy, Deputy Environmental Chief Shen Chih-hsiu (沈志修) said that the ban would be extended to take-out items in 2020 but that the timetable for this could be moved up to this year, reported the CNA.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) recommends that the approximately 8,000 affected stores adopt alternatives, such as straws made from paper, certified biodegradable plastic, bamboo, stainless steel, or silicone, as well as providing cups without straws. It estimates that the new ban will cut down on the number of straws consumed in Taiwan, a staggering 3 billion each year, by 100 million.

According to EPA Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬), plastic straws are a major source of marine pollution, endangering marine life and ecosystems. He lauded the efforts of some businesses to take corporate responsibility by implementing the ban long before it went into effect, reported Liberty Times.

The environmental authorities will determine whether to expand the scope of restrictions to take-away drinks and handmade tea shops after a year. Businesses in Taiwan that have ceased to offer single-use plastic straws include McDonald’s, KFC, Breeze Center, IKEA, Carrefour, Decathlon Group, TGI Friday’s, Subway, and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi among others, said the report.

The Shin Kong Mitsukoshi mall in Taipei estimates that discontinuing plastic straws will reduce its plastic waste by 65 metric tons per year, equivalent to the amount of garbage a small family would generate over 77 years, reported the CNA. Vice President of Supply Chain Management at McDonald's in Taiwan, Lin Li-wen (林麗文), estimated that phasing out straws will cut plastic waste in the company by 16 percent.

To preserve the experience of slurping up the tapioca balls in Taiwan's famous bubble (boba) milk tea, a new venture called "100 plastic free" (100%植) is manufacturing straws made from biodegradable materials such as sugarcane and coffee grounds. Another company, Float, has designed a reusable glass cup that suspends the tapioca balls at the top in a separate compartment, negating the need for a straw.