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Asia Minute: Can action on disposable cups make a dramatic difference in plastic trash?

Taiwan Bottles to Blankets
Wally Santana
Plastic has remained an issue for Taiwan since 2010, when this photo was taken. Now, environmental departments are taking action on the pollution.

For the last couple of weeks, people haven't been able to buy beverages in single-use plastic cups anywhere in Taiwan's capital city.

The Taipei Department of Environmental Protection said it affects more than 2,200 stores and will cut plastic waste by more than 900 tons a year.

In the new year, the government plans to start a system where stores can loan out reusable cups.

In South Korea, the national government is testing a new policy to ban all free single-use cups.

Its running a pilot program in Sejong City, a center for government offices, and on the island of Jeju, with a focus of tourism.

Korea's Environment Ministry recently reported that the use of disposable cups has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

In 2019, the government estimates some 770 million single-use cups were used across South Korea. By 2021, that number topped 1 billion.

The Korean law is not an outright ban, but it requires stores to charge a deposit on each cup — equivalent to about a quarter.

The cups are then returned, cleaned, sanitized and reused.

That may also boost an already-existing practice at South Korean coffeeshops—where many consumers bring their own cups — and usually get a small discount.

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