Each year, about 16 billion plastic bags are used in Taiwan (nearly four times more than in EU countries!), and night markets are major perpetrators. According to Taiwan’s Environmental Information Center, an average of 116 plastic bags are used at these night markets every five minutes. These plastic bags simply accumulate in the natural environment as they can’t be recycled. Even after 100 years in a landfill, they don’t decompose, causing lasting damage to us and the environment.

So are plastic products really a necessity? Not at all.

The Taitung Slow Food Festival has been hailed by the media as the most “un-plastic” street fair in all of Taiwan, promoting a culture of eco-friendly dining for five years. During this year’s autumn event on November 14 and 15, even though the number of attendees per day reached over 3,000, the amount of trash produced was less than 40 kilograms! How’d they do it?

台東慢食節

Driving a New Trend with a Zero-plastic Street Fair

When the festival organizers were initially promoting the event, they made a conscious and active effort to encouraging festivalgoers to bring their own utensils and tableware. Also, washing stations were made available to wash their utensils and tableware after sampling each booth. The event organizer banned any participating vendors from using single-use plastic serving ware; instead, they provided rental reusable dishes and utensils for festivalgoers. Many participating vendors used natural materials, such as leaves from banana trees, shell ginger plants, and parasol leaf trees, as serving dishes. Visitors didn’t feel inconvenienced and were happy to partake a small part in protecting the environment. All these event elements made quite the impact and impression on the festival attendees with such comments as, “What a novel idea to use leaves as dishes! This reflects the wisdom of indigenous people”; “This festival is really meaningful because it’s such a waste to just throw away dishes after only one use”; and “I’m not from Taitung, but since I love this place, I don’t want to pollute it.”

台東慢食節

Taitung’s “Most Down to Earth” Street Fair

Taitung Slow Food Festival is different from most other street fairs events in that it showcases local Taitung restaurants and food vendors. You can enjoy and learn about all the different ingredients native to the county all in one spot, allowing festival goers a better understanding of the local culture and history. The rich soil here produces all kinds of unique native crops, including red quinoa, gac, daylilies, roselles, oil millet, mountain pepper, and pigeon peas. The theme for this autumn’s Slow Food Festival was “Traditional, Indigenous, and Native Seeds Crops of Taitung,” so vendors turned ingredients that can only be found in Taitung into innovative delicacies, like the Chubby Rabbit’s gac spätzle, the DailyKitchen’s grilled pork sandwich with mountain pepper and lemon, and the Chinshan Homestay’s unique ice cream of roselles, rice wine, and red quinoa, to name a few. If you missed this year’s Slow Food Festival, follow us on FB at “發現臺東慢食” to make sure you won’t miss it again next year!

For more information, check out Taitung Slow Food Festival’s FB fan page: 〈發現臺東慢食〉粉絲專頁