Face mask litterers can be fined up to NT$6,000: Health Ministry

A volunteer shows a woman a sign reading "littering discarded face masks is scarier than not wearing one." / Photo courtesy of the Pingtung Environmental Protection Bureau

TAIPEI (CNA) — Individuals who are found throwing their discarded surgical masks on the streets can be fined up to NT$6,000 (US$196), according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).

The masks, which are commonly used in Taiwan in efforts to protect against the COVID-19 coronavirus, fall under the category of general waste, and should be disposed of in regular garbage bins after being used to prevent the spread of virus, according to the MOHW.

Those who throw away their masks on the street, however, can be subject to fines between NT$1,200 to NT$6,000 under the Waste Disposal Act, the MOHW warned.

Various municipalities in Taiwan have seen an increase in discarded surgical masks on the streets since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as the use of masks have skyrocketed.

In the southern county of Pingtung, for instance, a group of volunteers picked up more than 500 masks left lying around the streets near a hospital within an hour two weeks ago, according to the county’s Environmental Protection Bureau.

Only four masks were found in trash bins that the hospital had set up, the bureau said.

In response to the violations, the bureau said they will step up enforcement of the Waste Disposal Act. They have also sent out volunteers to public transit stations and hospitals to spread the message that “littering discarded face masks is scarier than not wearing one.”