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This country will eliminate all disposable plastic in 12 years

Taiwan has set one of the world's most ambitious waste reduction timelines. Will Canada follow suit?

By Al Donato

In 12 years, takeout in Taiwan will no longer be an environmental hazard. That's because the Asian nation is pledging a complete ban on single-use plastics by 2030, with one of the world's most ambitious waste reduction timelines.

The Environmental Protection Association (EPA) introduced the ban's gradual rollout at a press conference in February, culminating with the elimination of all disposable plastic straws, bags, utensils and cups.

The ban will start with chain restaurants. Straws won't be available for in-store use come next year. In 2020, plastic straws will no longer be free in all dining establishments. By 2025, retailers will charge for all single-use plastic items until the outright ban in 2030.

Taiwan was one of the first countries to ban free plastic bags, back in 2002. In spite of this, plastic waste levels continue to be a growing concern. The average Taiwanese citizen uses 700 plastic bags per year, the EPA estimates.

Taiwan is setting an example that could have a profound environmental impact as much of the world's plastic ends up in landfills or oceans. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation warns oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

Although disposable plastic items are convenient for modern living, other countries are also taking action. Scotland is set to ban plastic straws by 2019. Kenya has banned plastic bags, even going as far as to criminalize them. The penalty for manufacturing or selling plastic bags in this African country is four years in prison or up to $38,000 in fines.

While other countries have chartered federal plastic waste laws, Canada still has work to do. No federal regulations exist yet, although several municipalities have taken it upon themselves to join the anti-plastic waste movement, such as Montreal. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said Canada will be urging other nations to form a zero-waste plastic charter at the G7 in June.

Welcomed by most environmental activists, the anti-plastic waste movement isn't without its detractors. Disability rights advocates have criticized legislated plastic straw bans, citing how straws are essential for individuals affected by a variety of conditions.

"To me, not having straws is as much of an accessibility issue as not having a button on the door," Miriam Osbourne told Metro News. Osbourne's disability affects her upper-body strength, making straws a necessity for drinking a glass of water.

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