All single-use plastic must be phased out by 2030.
Ordering take-out, picking up groceries, buying a soft drink — these are all activities that will change over the next decade in Taiwan when the island nation imposes a blanket ban on single-use plastic bags, straws, and cups, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
It will be one of the farthest-reaching bans on plastic in the world, and it demonstrates the momentum of the anti-plastic movement as the scale of environmental harm caused by the substance is fully realized.
“We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health,” said Lai Ying-yaun, a Taiwanese Environmental Protection Agency official, in a statement.
Taiwan’s ban will be phased in over time and builds on existing regulations like an expanded recycling program and extra charges for plastic bags, according to the science website Phys.
The first part of the regulation includes banning chain restaurants from giving straws to customers in 2019, and then an overall ban on straws in dining outlets by 2020.
Retail stores will be charged for providing free plastic bags, disposable food containers, and utensils in 2020 and additional fees will be added in 2025.
These measures will culminate in a flat-out ban on single-use bags, utensils, straws, and containers by 2030, Hong Kong Free Press reports.
“You can use steel products, or edible straws – or maybe you just don’t need to use straws at all,” Ying-yaun said. “There is no inconvenience caused at all.”
Taiwan’s announcement is in response to the scale of plastic pollution.
Globally, around 380 million metric tons of plastic are being created annually. Meanwhile, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, which is like emptying a garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute.
The announcement is also part of a larger movement against plastic in the world as governments realize that the convenience of plastic is not worth the harm it causes.
The UN recently proposed a global ban on plastic pollution entering the oceans; Canada is planning to introduce a similar proposal at the G7 gathering later this year; and a range of local, state, and federal governments are enacting targeted and sweeping bans on plastic use.
Plastic straws in particular have been the focus of environmental advocates.
Each day, US citizens use about 500 million straws, according to Eco-Cycle. Considering the US accounts for just 4.4% of the global population, the global number of straws used daily is probably much higher.
Almost none of these straws can be recycled because they’re generally made from single-use plastic and are so flimsy that they can’t endure the recycling process.
So businesses, cities, and even countries are getting rid of them.
Scotland, for instance, recently announced a ban on single-use straws to be enacted in 2019.
Taiwan’s ban goes farther by banning a suite of other popular plastic items. Now, the country needs to convince bigger consumers of plastic to follow their lead.