By Charlotte Lee
Taipei, June 20 ─ Plastic straws are particularly harmful to the environment because they are so flimsy that they cannot be recycled, and even straws that should be recycled, rarely are. They are used for an extremely short amount of time, often littered away, and then make their way into the oceans, eventually killing countless seabirds and turtles. Instead of using plastic straws, the Taiwanese government encourages citizens to use edible or reusable steel alternatives, or simply not use straws at all.
Straws will first be banned in-store with major chain restaurants starting in 2019, but this rule will eventually be extended to all restaurants in 2020. As of 2025, consumers will have to pay an extra fee for all single-use plastic, including shopping bags, cutlery, cups, and utensils. In 2030, plastic will be banned completely.
The straw ban will affect over 8,000 stores in the country, especially popular bubble milk tea chains loved by locals and tourists alike. Despite the positive eco-friendly drive towards a greener future, many boba store-owners are finding it difficult to provide a economical and practical alternative for their consumers. While boba sized straws do exist, not every customer comes to the store prepared. However, phasing out plastic has just begun—with time, it is likely that consumers will begin to adapt.
According to the EPA, each Taiwanese person uses 700 plastic bags each year. This means that as of today, well over 16 billion plastic bags are used per year; however the country’s eco-friendly movement will cut this number down to zero by 2030.
The government’s plastic ban is an important and aggressive movement towards a more environmental future. Across the globe, stores are voluntarily banning straws to contribute towards less waste: encouraging, but not enough. The mandatory ban in Taiwan demonstrates that the government is making necessary, decisive steps towards a cleaner world. By slowly and phasing out not only straws, but all forms of single-use plastic, this small island’s environmental initiative will be far more advanced than other countries that are much larger plastic consumers.
At the G7 Summit on June 8, five countries agreed upon a similar plastic ban to work towards 100 percent reusable, recyclable or recoverable plastic by 2030. Of the seven countries, the US and Japan were the only two countries that refused to get on board.
Mouina El Kotni, the founder of the Association Bas les Pailles in France estimates that the French use 8.8 million plastic straws per day on fast food restaurants alone. Because of this excessive waste, El Kotni has started a petition to call on the French government to ban use of drinking straws, arguing that most people don’t use straws out of necessity, but out of habit. Additionally, McDonald’s fast food chain has made significant plans to use environmental alternatives to plastic straws in both France and the UK— which is promising, but seem minor in comparison to Taiwan’s bold and well planned out plastic ban.