Butt cleaning fee may raise price

The China Post staff

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) under the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) has decided in principle to authorize local-level governments to levy a “cigarette butt cleaning fee” on cigarette suppliers or smokers. This may add about NT$5 to each pack of cigarettes sold in Taiwan. EPA officials said local-level county or city governments may decide on their own whether and how to levy such a charge as well as how much the fee should be. They said the latitude given to local governments is based on the consideration that the situation in every area of Taiwan is not exactly the same. It is also a sign of respect for each of the local governments.

One outstanding example was Taipei City’s setting the precedent to collect garbage fees along with various sizes of garbage bags. When the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Hsinchu City Government raised the proposal of charging a “cigarette butt cleaning fee” on cigarette suppliers or smokers in February, the EPA at first had reservations about such a plan because it thought the move would affect people’s rights and obligations, requiring the enactment of a new law. But after consulting with experts about the feasibility of the plan, EPA officials and the experts have built a consensus that Article 11 of the Waste Disposal Law has already provided a legal base for such a charge and there is no need to draft a new set of rules.

The Hsinchu City Environmental Protection Bureau stated that cigarettes pose a hazard to both human health and the environment, while cigarettes butts littered all over the place adds to the cost of maintaining a clean and decent environment. The bureau argued that such a fee will be used to clean up streets and the environment, conforming to the “polluter pays” principle. The Article 11 of the Waste Disposal Law stipulates that “governing agencies should collect the necessary fees from residents in the districts where wastes have to be cleaned or disposed of.” Article 12 of the same law specifies that the prohibited actions and items include “recklessly spitting mucus, spitting betel nut juice, littering cigarette butts and chewing gum and other discarded waste.” After the EPA grants formal approval to the Hsinchu City Government plan, most other local-level governments are expected to follow suit, since they are all desperately looking for new sources of revenue to overcome budget deficits.