Supermarkets must cut packaging or be fined

The China Post staff

Starting July 1, local hypermarts and supermarkets will be required to gradually reduce the use of plastic boxes for containing or packaging eggs, fresh foods, bread, cakes and biscuits, according to a new set of rules announced yesterday by the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).

Under the rules, the target of the reduction measures includes the oft seen disposable PET, PS, PVC, PE or PP boxes and trays for eggs, meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits and baked goods, as well as plastic cups, bowls, and plates for foods or beverages, said Ho Soon-ching, head of the EPA’s Department of Waste Management.

The rules call for local hypermarts and supermarkets to cut their use of plastic packaging for fresh foods by 15 percent within one year from July 1 and 25 percent in the second year. Otherwise, they will be subject to fines of up to NT$150,000 (US$ 4,500), Ho said.

Local hypermarts or supermarkets are required to submit their first-year plans for cutting plastic packaging to the environmental protection units of local county and city governments, and report their achievements in this regard by the end of September 2008. Those failing to meet the demand for a 15 percent reduction will face fines of NT$30,000 to NT$150,000.

According to EPA tallies, nationwide such packaging produces 233 metric tons of waste each month. The new measure is expected to reduce that waste by 35 tons per month in the first year of implementation, and 58 tons in the second year, Ho continued.

Ho said the EPA had planned to entirely ban such packaging in hypermarts and supermarkets but faced opposition from the industry. Therefore, the EPA adopted the Korean model focusing on gradual reduction, she said.

She suggested, for example, that the common practice of packing only two carrots with a plastic tray plus shrink wrap can be easily changed to the use of shrink wrap only or by entirely doing away with wrapping.