The Environmental Protection Administration announced yesterday that starting May 1, food stalls will be exempt from a nationwide plastic bag ban, but proper restaurants and diners located in shopping centers, supermarkets and wholesale stores will still have to abide by the present regulation that stipulates plastic bags must be at least 0.6 mm thick and must be sold, not given away for free.
The administration revised the three-year-old ban on plastic bags because of the potentially confusing dilemma brought up at a recent hearing by managers of food court restaurants, who asked if they were considered stalls or "diners with shop fronts," and therefore subject to the EPA ban on bags.
According to EPA Department of Waste Management Director Chang Hsu-chang, the EPA decided to include restaurants operating in shopping malls and large-scale indoor markets in order to maintain the "integrity of shopping in one place."
Chang further explained that if the EPA did not place a restriction on these food suppliers, consumers would likely run into two different systems within a single dining area, as one food stand might choose to not offer any bags to its customers, but a neighboring snack bar might sell 0.6 mm-thick bags for a minimum of NT$2, depending on the size.
Chang added that the seating area in food courts are designed to fit a maximum capacity of hungry shoppers for a certain period of time, which makes the dining experience different to that of ordering from street stalls, where people usually order the food to go. "Therefore, the food suppliers in shopping centers should follow the plastic restrictions," he said.
Also, the EPA will ban food suppliers in state-run facilities from providing consumers with non-recyclable (plastic) cutlery starting July 1, as a "warning by example" to further promote the plastic products restriction policy. The EPA added that food suppliers on campuses should also prepare for the implementation of the same law in September.
The EPA estimates that the enforcement of the policy will bring about a reduction of 2,700 tons of plastic products per year.