A Plastic-Free Live on Earth: Asia Highlights
As plastic pollution continues to threaten the world, nations and regions are striving to go ‘plastic-free’. Taiwan, for example, has banned the use of plastic drinking straws, and Hong Kong has its own Plastic Shopping Bag Levy Scheme. What do other places across the globe have in store? Let us take a look at what is happening in Asia.
The first country to fully ban the use of any plastics, Bangladesh issued an order to forbid the private production, storage and use of polyvinyl chloride bags in 2002. Together with the launch of Jute Packaging Act 2010, the country is making its way towards biodegradable packaging using jute bags.
The country that has been crowned “the happiest country in the world” attempted a ban on the import of plastic bags as early as 1999. Though the ban was once lifted, serious pollution ensued and the ban on plastic bags was soon resumed. In 2005 the ban was further strengthened, which earned the country the award of “Champion of the Earth” from the United Nations Environment Programme in the same year.
China has already prohibited shops from distributing plastic bags for free since 2008, and at the same time has also forbidden the production, sale and use of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 0.025 cm. While exemptions can be made for certain foods due to concerns in hygiene, in reality, however, only large-scale supermarket chains abide by the restrictions.
In 2009, Hong Kong implemented the first phase of the Plastic Shopping Bag Levy Scheme, with convenience stores being the first to comply. Under the Scheme, consumers are charged HK$0.5 for each plastic bag. In 2015, the Scheme was expanded to cover all shops, with exemptions for certain foods for hygiene reasons.
Over half of the states and union territories in India have implemented either partial or complete bans on plastics, despite effects not being very prominent. On 8th June this year, or World Ocean’s Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India would “abandon all single-use plastic products by 2020”.
Since 1st January this year, Israeli supermarkets has put into effect a plastic bag levy and started charging US$0.03 (equivalent to HK$0.2) for each bag.
While awareness of waste sorting and recycling is rather strong in Japan, a comprehensive plastic bag levy scheme has not yet been established. Recently, the country has announced that starting from 2020, plastic bags will no longer be provided for free in shops.
The country announced last year that starting from July 2018, all sales of cosmetics containing microplastics would be prohibited, as well as the use of plastic bags in supermarkets from October. Targets has also been set, which include reducing the use of plastic bags and cups by 35% before 2025, and reducing the production of plastic waste by half by 2030.
Since 2011, all shops in Malaysia have carried out a measure in which during one day of the week plastic bags would not be provided for free. Later, several regions in the country have banned the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam products. In 2017, it is declared that in the federal territories Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya plastic bags were completely prohibited and that expenses for packaging would be paid by businesses.
In the country’s capital Yangon a law was passed in 2009 forbidding the manufacturing, sale and storage of “non-recyclable” plastic bags. In 2011, all plastic bags in the city were banned.
The fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken in Singapore has recently announced that starting from 20th June, all 84 branch stores would stopping offering plastic straws and cup lids for dine-in customers, while the lids would still be provided for takeaways. As for a plastic bag levy, as of March, authorities stated that they do not have a plan for such a scheme yet.
After the catastrophe in which a garbage dump collapsed causing huge casualties in 2017, Sri Lankan authorities passed a law in September of the same year to prohibit the sale of plastic bags, cups and food trays. Offenders would be prosecuted under the National Environmental Act and could face a maximum sentence of two years.
Taiwan has been very proactive in creating a plastic-free society. Since the start of a series of plastic bans in 2002, plastic bags are no longer provided for free in various public or private companies, shops and supermarkets as well as convenience stores. Lately the authorities further announced a plan to ban plastic straws, along with a target to eliminate all microplastics-containing products from the market in 2020. Furthermore, it is planned that single-use plastic items including plastic bags, disposable cutlery, single-use cups and straws would all be banned in 2030.
The discovery of 80 plastic bags in the body of a dead whale in Thailand has shocked the world. The Thai government has since doubled efforts in banning plastics, with a target to halve the usage of plastic items by 2021.
Most Asian countries and regions start with a plastic bag levy and some expand legislative efforts to banning straws and microplastics-containing products. We can all start from stop using plastic bags as well, and walk towards a plastic-free life step by step.
For more information and activities on “living plastic-free”: http://greensense.org.hk/no1offComments