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Japan sniffs at Taiwan's toilet culture

  • Huang Jing-jing and Staff Reporter
  • 2011-06-22
  • 17:20 (GMT+8)
The Taiwanese custom of discarding used toilet tissue in trash bins has repulsed many foreign tourists but Taiwan's environmental bureau said nothing can be done before more sewers are built. (File Photo/Chen Yi-cheng)

The Taiwanese custom of discarding used toilet tissue in trash bins has repulsed many foreign tourists but Taiwan's environmental bureau said nothing can be done before more sewers are built. (File Photo/Chen Yi-cheng)

Unlike people in other Asian countries, the Japanese, known for their scrupulously hygienic habits of maintaining odor-free bathrooms with clean surfaces, are usually shocked by the variety of toilet cultures they encounter when they travel to other countries.

For instance, Japanese tourists are said to be frequently distressed at the lack of clean public toilet facilities in Taiwan. In particular, they are horrified at the sight of bathroom trash bins filled with used toilet paper.

Unlike in Taiwan, where toilet paper is not water-soluble and usually thrown into bathroom garbage bins, the Japanese use water-soluble toilet paper that can be flushed down the toilet. Bathroom trash bins are, therefore, primarily used to dispose used sanitary pads.

In Japan, women typically wrap used sanitary pads in plastic bags before throwing them into trash bins to maintain a clean environment.

Taiwan's toilet culture usually shocks the Japanese, especially when Taiwanese tourists visit Japan, the most popular tourist destination. Some Japanese restaurants that receive Taiwanese travelers have now posted notices in Chinese requesting their patrons flush used toilet paper down the toilet bowl.

The issue of whether toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet has sparked considerable debate in Taiwan. A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) found that even though flushing toilet paper down the toilet might not clog sewage drains, the practice could cause a lot of problems in the treatment of septic tanks. Therefore, the administration has always encouraged people to toss toilet paper into the garbage bin after use.

Yet flushing toilet paper down the toilet is standard practice in Japan, Europe and the United States. Why doesn't Taiwan follow suit? The EPA said that was because the prevalence rate of Taiwan's sanitary sewage lines, at 18 percent, is not high. Taipei has the highest prevalence rate of sanitary sewage lines -- 80 percent.

The administration noted that if water-soluble toilet paper is flushed down the toilet, it could reduce garbage volume and foul odors, but would increase the cost of treating sewage and septic tank systems, compared with the cost of simply tackling disposed toilet paper.

The EPA also said that flushing used toilet paper down the toilet could cause pollution in rivers and sewage lines.

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