More than 10,000 people protest plastic bag ban

More people protested in Taipei over the planned Taiwanese plastic bag tax than took to the streets recently in many cities to object to a war in Iraq.

The China Post reports that more than 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Taipei yesterday to demonstrate against a ban on plastic bags implemented at the beginning of the year. Demonstration organizer Chang Wen-wei called for an immediate halt to what he termed a hastily concocted policy and further demanded that Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head Hau Lung-bin apologise and step down from office. Another important goal of the march was to prod the government into implementing a recycling programme for goods made out of plastic, Chang said.

Chang said that plastic products themselves should not be villianised.

Instead, the government should continue to work out ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste being created through recycling efforts. Chang claimed that between 1988 and 2002, the government collected over NT$5.8 billion from plastics companies for use in setting up a recycling system for plastics goods. For example, a company making a kilogram of plastic products priced at NT$20 would have to pay what was in effect at 40 per cent tax, he said.

To date, though, there have been no real attempts by environmental officials to set up a programme to recycle plastic goods, Chang said. Instead, the government has chosen to choke the life out of plastics companies by prohibiting people from using plastic bags, he said.

Chang also criticised plans announced by the EPA to help people in the plastics industry recover from the effects of the policy as being “nice-sounding but empty lies”.

EPA Director General Hau rejected the protesters demand for a postponement of the ban and vowed to take full responsibility by stepping down if the phase-out policy fails, saying that the aim of the programme is to lessen the impact of plastic waste on the environment. He asked all affected stores to cooperate with the government and asked the public to have patience and accept a little inconvenience to give the programme a fair chance at success.

Environmental officials say they have prepared 8,400 jobs for people in the plastics industry who may lose their jobs as a result of the ban on bags. Between NT$2 billion and NT$2.5 billion in low interest loans will also be made available to plastics firms suffering under the ban to help keep them above water.

According to Chang though, work opportunities being offered by the EPA to people who have had to join unemployment lines as a result of the new policy are nothing more than temporary, low-paying jobs. After one year the jobs are effectively over, and workers will once more face the prospect of being unemployed, Chang said. Chang also complained that the preferential loans are earmarked only for new investments and not to help companies out of their current straits. The real problem facing the plastics industry, he said, is that many companies saw their revenues decrease by 50 per cent or more after the new policy went into effect.

With bankers starting to cut down their access to credit and financing, many companies were having enough trouble keeping their existing equipment and plants running without worrying about new investments, he said. Chang said the demonstration was prompted after talks with the government failed to produce any new breakthroughs.

It marked the second time in the space of a month that workers in the plastics industry have taken to the streets to protest the new policy. On Dec. 27, some 10,000 people participated in a demonstration against the ban on plastic bags. This time, Chang said that up to 50,000 people would take part in Sunday’s rally. The turn-out was not as high as expected, though, with estimates ranging from around 10,000 to over 30,000 protesters.

Still, at least three lawmakers were on hand to exp

Ano da Publicação: 2003
Fonte: Warmer Bulletin #04-2003: January 24
Autor: Kit Strange (Warmer Bulletin)
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