Taiwanese Plastics Versus Sustainability - From the Perspective of Glocalization of Sustainable Development and Circular Economy

Chung-Hsien Lee
Postdoctoral Researcher,
Institute of Law, Academia Sinica;
Postdoctoral Researcher,
Research Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences,
Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan
9F., No. 97, Sec. 1, Roosevelt Rd.,
Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 10093, Taiwan


This paper argues for the importance of maintaining the comprehensiveness, coherence and consistency within the legal system regulating plastics in Taiwan and in this case peculiarly the regulatory strategy of the plastics reforms, namely the 2018 plan. The first two sections of this paper introduce the history of regulatory measures against plastic use in Taiwan since 2002 and a road map of the 2018 plan that eventually leads to a blanket ban on the use of single-use plastic products by 2030. Section three raises criticism of the 2018 plan, relating to ambiguities within normative system and rule-making procedure. In section four, it is argued that the cause of the ambiguous phenomena is the ambivalence in terms of the core value within Taiwanese society, which is reflected in the lack of genuine and ultimate legislative purposes to dominate and guide the 2018 plan.

The paper further analyses that this reform is not merely a unilateral action out of autonomous efforts but an evolution that should be situated in a wider context. The regulatory history together with the unique international status of Taiwan demonstrates these are the results of interactions between state agency and international socio-cultural structure. Taiwan’s regulatory history and tendency factually exhibits the world-system of the capitalist world economy.

However, these do not imply that there is no room for any entity within this system to demonstrate different rationale and discursive resistance to exhibit some sort of autonomy. The Control Yuan, one of the five highest constitutional institutions in Taiwan, officially criticises and rejects the model of circular economy pursuit by the EPA in the 2108 plan. Following this thread and legal mandate, section 5 differentiates two sorts of circular economy to response to the Control Yuan’s Correction Measures. This paper suggests that sustainable development has the potential to be the ultimate criteria and aim shared by Taiwanese society to examine which kind of circular economy model should be proposed as regulatory strategy or blueprint of the plastics regulation. This reinforces the importance of a broader aim that should originate from social consensus concerning the core value or conviction from the ground that can sustain the regulatory legislation. The case of Taiwan could also contribute to the realization of ‘glocalisation’ of sustainable development, which implies according to present tendency the sustainability can no longer be attained by exporting waste or outsourcing polluting industries through the neo-liberal global free trade to the ignored corners of the world where people can turn a blind eye to. Instead, to cope with the plastic products locally, either by refusing and reducing the usage of plastic products, or at least reusing and recycling them, so as to avert from the reliance on importing petroleum material, might be the only way to approach global sustainability. The paper therefore argues that this seemingly optimistic trend of Taiwan’s plastic reform can only be celebrated until a localized and semi-enclosed circular economy entrenched.


Circular Economy, Comparative Law and Legal Transplant, Plastics Regulation, Plastics Industry, the Control Yuan.


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