Officials from Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) have reported a positive start to a campaign aimed at helping the environment by reducing the use of plastic.

The use of disposable cutlery and food containers has been banned in government operated grocery stores, as well as restaurants in government buildings, the military and schools.

As in many other countries, a huge amount of plastic waste is produced in Taiwan, and the EPA is trying hard to reduce this. As of 1 July, for instance, retailers are no longer allowed to give customers free plastic carrier bags – a move currently being considered in Australia.

The new policy was implemented on 1 October, and the EPA said that most government-operated restaurants had complied with it during its first week. Officials carried out random checks on 2,317 restaurants and found that just 17 remained in violation of the new rule, accounting for just 0.7% of the stores they inspected. The offending stores were issued with warnings by the EPA.

About 70% of the restaurants inspected now use reusable utensils, while the others have opted for disposable ones made of materials other than plastic, reported the Taipei Times.

Retailers who do not comply will be fined between NT$60,000 (US$1714) and a maximum of NT$300,000, according to the Waste Disposal Act.

The ban currently affects 7,739 stores and restaurants, but according to the EPA, the ban on providing free plastic shopping bags and plastic disposable utensils and food containers will be widened next year to include most stores, including department stores, chain convenience stores, wholesalers, supermarkets, chain fast food stores and restaurants with seats. It will then affect more than 70,000 businesses.