Finally, one nation is taking firm, clear action toward going plastic-free.
In a few years' time, travellers to Taiwan will want to pack more than clothes and a passport; they should take along a refillable water bottle, shopping bag, and stainless steel drinking straw.
The country has just announced an impressive ban on all single-use plastics, starting in 2030. Once that ban takes effect, many items that are currently handed out for free will no longer be available, from plastic grocery bags and disposable beverage cups to takeout food containers and plastic straws.
To prepare citizens for the change, Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has laid out a clear road map. Starting next year, chain restaurants will stop providing straws for in-store use. By 2020, that will extend to all dining establishments. The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reports,
"Free plastic shopping bags, disposable food containers and disposable utensils will also be banned in 2020 from all retail stores that issue uniform invoices – widely used in Taiwan. Additional fees will also be imposed in 2025."
All of these steps will lead to the outright ban in 2030, at which point residents will be accustomed to not being able to rely on single-use plastics anymore. By then they'll also be enjoying the benefits of a reduced-plastic lifestyle, with less litter lying around, less trash to haul to the curb, and cleaner beaches. Taiwan's environment minister Lee Ying-yuan echoed exactly what we've been saying on TreeHugger for years:
"You can use steel products, or edible straws – or maybe you just don’t need to use straws at all. There is no inconvenience caused at all."
He is quoted in HKFP, saying that "the reduction in the use of plastic is the responsibility of all members of the public, rather than just his agency. The drive will create a better environment for future generations."
Hurrah! This ban is a breath of fresh air amid a sea of half-hearted efforts from various nations and businesses (think Starbucks' pathetic trial 5p charge on throwaway cups). Sure, these efforts add up over time, but considering the scale of the plastic disaster, and the continuing rate at which the planet's oceans are filling with plastic pollution, we need much more drastic action immediately. Twelve years may seem like a long ways off, but time will fly by. Taiwan at least has a clear-cut plan for reaching its ultimate goal -- the full ban that every other nation should be striving to achieve within the next decade, as well.
France banned single-use dishes and cutlery in 2016. The UK is hinting at the possibility of banning straws. But only Taiwan, so far, has taken the brave step of condemning it all. That's exactly the path we need to follow.