Environmental protection has been pursued for over two decades in Taiwan. Economic development has led to worsening pollution and more strain on the environment. With insufficient waste treatment and disposal facilities, random waste dumping has caused soil and groundwater pollution that society needs to tackle urgently.
On 24 November 2015, the EPA began to formulate Chapter 10-1 of the Water Pollution Control Measures and Test Reporting Management Regulations (水污染防治措施及檢測申報管理辦法) to promote the use of manure fermentation digestate as fertilizers. The process was regularly reviewed on a rolling basis and the COA and regional agricultural authorities were coordinated to assist with the reviews. The EPA also cooperated with local governments and industry groups to provide livestock enterprises with free services such as conducting tests on digestate contents and background soil and groundwater data, matching farmlands in need of irrigation, and writing and submitting applications. Not only is the application for manure reutilization easy with free assistance from the government, farms that use anaerobic fermentation can reduce odors, produce digestate as fertilizers, and generate power with biogas. Other benefits of manure reutilization include lowering the water pollution control fees that farms have to pay, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, and improving the overall environmental quality.
Policies on livestock manure reutilization have been promoted jointly by the EPA and the COA since 2016. To help small livestock farms treat their wastewater and reutilize resources, the EPA subsidized local governments to promote the Large Farms Assist Small Farms projects, which involves the collection and treatment or centralized treatment of small farms’ manure by large farms. Currently, 13 applications in six counties/cities have been approved with the capability of handling manure from 120,000 heads of livestock on 53 farms.
A press conference was held by the EPA in Chuenmin Livestock Farm in Taishi Township, Yunlin County on 3 November 2020 to recognize the effort and achievements of local governments. The EPA Deputy Minister Hung-Teh Tsai, the Director-General of the EPA’s Department of Water Quality Protection Sheng-Chong Wu, Yunlin County Deputy Commissioner Shu-Ya Hsieh, and the Director-General of Yunlin Environmental Bureau Yu-Lin Kuo were among the nearly 200 guests at the event.
Deputy Minister Tsai conducted the launch ceremony to promote livestock manure reutilization and demonstrate the determination of the central and local governments to reduce water pollution from livestock manure and keep farmlands fertile through manure reutilization. In addition, a project that was subsidized by the EPA and carried out by Luye Green Energy Company in Yunlin to treat manure for small farms (a Large Farms Assist Small Farms project) was officially launched during the event.
According to the EPA, since 2016 more than 1,500 livestock farms have adopted manure reutilization measures including using fermentation digestate as fertilizers or for different purposes and recycling wastewater that met the Effluent Standards for irrigation. A total of 678 metric tons of recycled farm wastewater have been approved annually to be used for irrigation. The use of digestate as fertilizers has replaced 188,578 bags of chemical fertilizers and cut fertilizer costs by NT$64,110,000. In addition, the use of recycled wastewater for irrigation has reduced water pollution and saved NT$52,240,000 in water pollution control fees, equivalent to the capacity of 773 gravel contact oxidation treatment facilities.
Considering the inadequate wastewater treatment facilities and reutilization capacities that small farms usually have, the EPA has since 2018 subsidized local governments to install treatment and reutilization facilities in large farms to treat manure for other livestock farms (dubbed as Large Farms Assist Small Farms or centralized treatment projects). Currently, subsidies have been approved for 13 such projects, which in total are capable of treating manure from 120,000 heads of livestock and reducing annual carbon emissions by 120,000 metric tons. The installed power generation facilities in these projects have a capacity of 1,391 kilowatts in total. Seven of the 13 projects are located in Yunlin County, including Luye Green Energy Company which signed the contract on 3 November.
Luye Green Energy Company plans to set up manure treatment and reutilization equipment in Chuanmin Livestock Farm in Taishi Township and will import stirred anaerobic digesters from Germany, desulfurization systems from Denmark, biogas micro-turbine generators from the U.S., and biogas compressors from Italy. It will install pipes to collect and transport manure from 7,979 pigs in the neighboring four farms. With the capacity to treat manure from 17,239 heads of livestock, the entire project will cost approximately NT$182 million and will receive a subsidy of NT$28.99 million from the EPA. Its daily wastewater treatment capacity will be 172.4 metric tons, 75% of which will be recycled and reused for irrigation (in compliance with the Effluent Standards). It will prevent 4.7 metric tons of livestock wastewater from entering Hsinhuwei Stream every year. Use of biogas for power generation will also result in reduction of annual carbon emissions by roughly 19,000 metric tons.
Achieving circular economy in livestock industry
The EPA pointed out that a circular economy can be created in the livestock industry by effectively turning livestock resources into nitrogenous fertilizers and green energy. Not only can animal manure be utilized as fertilizer after anaerobic fermentation, the biogas generated during the process can also be used to generate electricity, which can be sold to Taipower. In addition, the reutilization of livestock manure can help improve the quality of water bodies and reduce odor problems. The Large Farms Assist Small Farms and the centralized treatment models can become pioneering models for building a circular economy in the livestock industry. Enterprises can learn from these experiences and replace their traditional business models with ones that are more economically sustainable and energy conserving.
During the press conference, guests went on tours to see farms that were irrigated with fermentation digestate. One such place was Friendly Farm Under the Moon, which advocates peaceful coexistence with nature. Wheat grown on the farm still retains an authentic, untainted aroma as farmers practice agrochemical-free, pesticide-free farming methods. Another farm that guests visited was a peanut farm irrigated with fermentation digestate as well. Peanuts are a major crop in Yunlin County, which is home to 70% of the nation’s peanut production. These tours demonstrated that the public and private sectors can work together to carry out a policy that benefits the livestock industry, agriculture, and the environment.
The EPA is still providing subsidies for various manure reutilization endeavors including Large Farms Assist Small Farms projects or centralized treatment of livestock manure. There are also subsidies for the purchase of digestate collection vehicles, irrigation vehicles or equipment, and farm storage tanks. Farmers are welcomed to contact their local environmental bureau for more information. It is hoped that through more promotion, more farmers and livestock enterprises will join the manure reutilization endeavors and achieve the goals of having 5% of all agricultural manure reutilized by 2025 and 10% by 2029. Ultimately, the public can enjoy improved waterfront environments and living quality as less livestock manure enters rivers and the industry discovers new value in a circular economy.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 23 (11)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)