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Offshore Convenience Stores Reduce Plastic at Source

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In addition to scenic views and rich natural biodiversity, Taiwan’s offshore islands also have lots of tourists and garbage. To protect the islands’ fragile ecosystems, the EPA has formulated guidelines to help convenience stores on offshore islands redesign their service models so as to reduce waste at source. They include redesigning how merchandise is provided, reducing packaging, switching to larger volumes, and using alternative materials.

Despite the many beach cleanups organized by both the private and public sectors and the promotion of the recycled marine waste product label, the reduction of plastic garbage still needs to begin at the source. In 2018, the EPA started to work with local businesses and residents on the island of Liuqiu to reduce disposable plastic beverage cups by introducing a reusable beverage cup rental service. Other offshore islands have followed suit. Statistics show that by the end of June 2022 there were at least 426,000 rentals of cups on offshore islands, eliminating the use of over 1.4 million 600-ml PET bottles. Considering that each bottled water has a carbon footprint of 150 grams, a total reduction of nearly 210,000 kg of carbon was achieved.

To promote at-source reduction, guidelines have been implemented to help convenience stores design services that cut waste and encourage tourists to reduce use of plastics during their visits. The EPA has been in collaboration with the 7-Eleven and Family Mart convenience store chains for product redesign, specifically considering product types, container materials, and packaging for offshore branches. The purpose is to reduce the use of plastic via minimal packaging, substitute materials, and selling in larger volumes instead of smaller ones.

7-Eleven first introduced these changes in its Lanyu branches, changing product packaging, reducing the use of plastics, switching to easily recyclable aluminum cans for certain bottled beverages, and switching to family-friendly volumes or larger-sized packaging for packaged food products and refrigerated dairy products. There is also an additional discount of at least NT$5 if customers choose the cup rental option. It is estimated these measures will reduce plastic garbage by 1,293 kg per year.

The stores have also had automatic recycling machines installed in them, which provide a NT$1 discount for purchases after recycling five plastic bottles. This has led to a 33% growth in recycling, from 252 kg a month to 336 kg. 7-Eleven is gradually expanding the same practice to its other offshore branches, and it is estimated that approximately 90% of them will have this machine installed by the end of this year. In addition, for the packaging of its store brand products FamilyMart has replaced trays with paper boxes and uses wrapping instead of lids for beverage cups. Wrapping is put on top of its cold beverages with no straws provided. In addition, FamilyMart is the first convenience store chain to collaborate with the Kinmen County Environmental Bureau to bring in beverage cup rentals. It is currently in the process of designing other innovations for plastic reduction.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, September 2022

Ministry of Environment