During Tomb Sweeping Day, if people are careless with fire or burn joss paper in open areas, uncontrolled fires may occur and further harm air quality. In 2022, 72% of fire incidents on the holiday were caused by tomb sweeping or burning of weeds. The EPA and the National Fire Agency (NFA) of the Ministry of the Interior, publicized the following three tips to make tomb cleaning more eco-friendly. First, overgrowth can be cut and disposed of at designated locations without open-air burning, second, joss paper can be placed at designated locations for centralized transport and burning, and third, joss paper can be replaced with donations for charities. Moreover, people are encouraged to practice fire-free tomb sweeping practices while taking advantage of the joss paper collection service at designated spots in public cemeteries, to make the tradition friendlier to the environment.
Tomb Sweeping Day is a peak period for ancestral worship in Taiwan, during which many people burn joss paper and weed grave sites. Director Mengyu Tsai of the EPA’s Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control pointed out that on the Peace Memorial Day on 28 February this year, the EPA used miniature sensors to monitor air quality during from burning weeds at public cemeteries in Tongluo, Miaoli County. It was found that PM2.5 concentration in the air increased from 20 μg/m3 to 300 μg/m3, significantly higher than the "red alert" level of 54.5 μg/m3, which indicates an extremely high health risk.
In response, the EPA and the NFA have joined forces for the first time, inviting the Taipei City Environmental Protection Bureau and the Keelung City Environmental Protection Bureau as representatives of local governments to promote centralized joss paper disposal, eco-friendly ancestral worship, and a fire-free Tomb Sweeping Day. Weeds can be gathered together at the same place before being bundled after gravesite clean-ups, while littering cigarette butts should be avoided. Moreover, local governments provide joss paper collection and transportation services, with 22,000 metric tons of joss paper collected in 2022. This year there will be more collection spots in cemeteries nationwide, with at least 300 collection spots available. People with a need to burn joss paper can hand it over to the local government for centralized disposal.
Open-air burning during tomb sweeping can easily cause fires. According to the NFA’s statistics in 2021 and 2022, as much as 52% of fire incidents were caused by residual embers and burning of weeds related to ancestral worship and tomb sweeping. A staggering 72% of fire incidents were caused by burning of joss paper and weeds during Tomb Sweeping Day in 2022, hence the urging of necessary caution.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, March 2023
- Ministry of Environment