Countries Banning Plastic Bags, What About Taiwan?

Countries Banning Plastic Bags, What About Taiwan?
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

Each year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. While it takes only seconds for humans to produce millions of plastic bags, the decomposition of the petroleum-made product lasts for hundreds of years. Governments around world are acting more actively to cope with the persistent problem, but what about Taiwan?

Translated by Bing-sheng Lee

Each year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide, which means more than one million bags are used every minute, according to environmental news website, EcoWatch.

While it takes only seconds for humans to produce millions of plastic bags, the decomposition of the petroleum-made product lasts for hundreds of years. With only a slight percentage of plastic bags being recycled, the huge amount of plastic waste created every day has caused serious environmental pollution around the world.

In Taiwan, a person uses more than 2.7 plastic bags daily, which equals to 728 bags used by a person annually, according to statistics from the Taiwan Environmental Information Association. In other words, Taiwan consumes about 18 billion plastic bags annually. This is 3.9 times more than those consumed by the European Union.

To mitigate the environmental threats posed by plastic waste, the Taiwanese government has imposed a plastic bag levy since 2002. Statistics from the Environmental Protection Administration show that the number of plastic bags consumed reduced by 58.7% in 2006. In the same year, the government started to promote recycling plastic bags, which led to 8,570 tons of plastic bags recycled in 2009.

Ireland is another country that initiated a plastic-bag charge in 2002. According to a paper by three researchers at University College Dublin, the policy reduced plastic bag usage by 90%.

In 2014, British shoppers took home 8.5 billion single-use carrier bags from big supermarkets. The average household has 40 of them stashed at home. Since October 5, 2015, the British government has implemented a law that requires large retailers in England to charge at least US$0.08 per bag.

However, plastic bags still remain a major environmental issue in Taiwan and many countries in the world. Governments are acting more actively to cope with the persistent problem.

Photo Credit: Taber Andrew Bain @Flickr CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: Taber Andrew Bain @Flickr CC BY 2.0

Australia moving to ban plastic bags nationwide

In Australia, four states and territories, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, have banned the use of the common grey supermarket bags and have greatly reduced plastic waste. Other two states, Queensland and New South Wales, are weighing up a joint ban to follow the suit.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles says 40% of turtles in Moreton Bay, a sea area that is 14 kilometers away from Central Brisbane, were found to have plastic inside them, which often led to slow and painful deaths.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says, “About seven to eight billion bags are consumed nationally. Action to address plastic shopping bags along the eastern coast would capture the largest population in Australia.”

Australian states are set to discuss options at a ministerial roundtable next week with Queensland and New South Wales considering acting together.

Hunt says he looks forward to discussing options with leaders, industry, environmentalists and scientific experts at the meeting.

Montreal to ban plastic bags as of 2018

Montreal, Canada, will also prohibit citizens from using single-use plastic bags in the near future.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has announced the city is banning single-use plastic bags as of January 1, 2018.

“You will understand that our plan is the result of extensive analysis and thoughtful reflection," Coderre says, “Lightweight bags, which are used by the billions, are volatile and represent a clear environmental concern."

The city is intentionally giving consumers, as well as the retail industry, nearly two years to adjust before the ban takes effect.

The ban applies to lightweight plastic shopping bags, specifically ones that are less than 50 microns (0.05 millimeters) thick, as well as bags that are oxo-degradable, oxo-fragmentable, oxo-biodegradable and biodegradable.

Certain bags are exempt from the ban for hygienic reasons, such as small plastic bags used for fresh vegetables or medication.

Photo Credit: AlexCC By 2.0

Photo Credit: AlexCC By 2.0

France to ban plastic bags from March

In France, single-use plastic bags are set to disappear from checkouts by the end of March, 2016. The bill does not include a ban on plastic bags that are deemed re-usable or biodegradable.

France’s efforts to reduce the number of plastic bags in distribution comes on the back of a call made by the EU asking member states to reduce the 100 billion bags handed out by 80%.

Thanks to a previous voluntary agreement, the number of plastic bags distributed at supermarket counters in France decreased drastically from 10.5 billion to 700 million between 2002 and 2011, with a further decrease after the government introduced a tax on plastic bags in January, 2014.

A second law plans to be implemented on January 1, 2017, which will ban all other kinds of disposable plastic bags, including those provided for packaging fruit, vegetables or cheese.

Edited by Olivia Yang

Taiwan Environmental Information Association
Environmental Protection Administration
“22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It)” (EcoWatch)
“Helping the hoarders” (The Economist)
“Queensland weighs plastic bag ban” (BrisbaneTimes)
“States band together on plastic bag ban” (Herald Sun)
“Are plastic bags about to be banned in Australia? NSW and Queensland join together to stop their use with a nationwide stoppage being considered” (Mail Online)
“Montreal to ban plastic shopping bags as of 2018” (CBC)