To maximize resource recycling and minimize waste disposal, the EPA has been implementing waste reduction and resource recycling measures for general or industrial wastes. Several ongoing waste reduction measures include source reduction of single-use plastics, plastic waste recycling and reuse, waste solar panel recycling and disposal, cellphone recycling, reuse of inorganic aggregate materials and fly ash.
Analysis of the current waste data in Taiwan has shown that total waste production in 2019 amounted to 29.45 million metric tons, 32.7% of which is general waste (9.64 million metric tons). Within the general waste, 56% were recycled (including 4.86 million metric tons of recyclables and 500,000 metric tons of food waste) and the rest was incinerated or landfilled.
In 2019, there were a total of 41,531 waste source enterprises in the EPA-announced industries, which reported a total of 19.81 million metric tons of waste output. Statistics on how these wastes were processed show that 83.9% were reutilized (16.62 million metric tons), showing that resource recycling is the primary means to achieve waste reduction, and that the EPA’s resource recycling policy is on the right track.
Resource recycling structure
To maximize resource recycling and minimize waste disposal, the EPA has drawn up an implementation structure based on the recycling of the four focused types of resources: organic biological resources, organic chemical resources, non-metal residual resources, and metal resources.
Marine plastic pollution has gained global attention in recent years. The statistics of past coastline cleanups in Taiwan also indicate that single-use plastics are the most commonly found waste items on beaches. In an effort to reduce marine plastic pollution, the EPA and environmental NGOs have jointly established the Marine Debris Management Platform and announced the Taiwan Marine Debris Governance Action Plan. The EPA also focused on the source reduction of single-use plastic products, and formulated implemention schedules to reduce the use of shopping bags, portable tableware, single-use take-out beverage cups and plastic straws in stages.
On 8 May 2019, the EPA announced the Targets and Implementation Methods of the Single-Use Plastic Straw Ban (一次用塑膠吸管限制使用對象及實施方式), which requires the public sector, schools, department stores and shopping malls, and fast-food chain restaurants to cease providing single-use plastic straws from 1 July 2019. The aim was to introduce regulations that motivate enterprises to provide environment-friendly products.
On 8 August 2019, the EPA revised and announced The Targets and Implementation Methods of the Disposable Utensil Ban (免洗餐具限制使用對象及實施方式), which further prohibits department stores, shopping malls, and hypermarkets from providing disposable utensils made of any kind of materials at their venues where shoppers eat. The regulations also require local industry competent authorities to collect public opinions and propose to the central industry competent authorities the ban implementation dates of the respective industries. The bans will be announced and implemented after they are approved by the central industry competent authorities.
Taiwan is well-known in the world for its night market culture, which is also a focus area of the EPA. From 1 July 2020, the EPA began to work with county and city environmental bureaus and selected 22 night markets across Taiwan to be revamped into “plastic-reducing, low carbon, and clean” environment-friendly night markets. The revamping focused on six areas: single-use product reduction, recycling, low carbon and energy conservation, cooking smoke emission control, food-related wastewater treatment, and the cleaning of the market environment and public restrooms.
For plastic reduction, vendors are encouraged to switch to utensils that can be washed and reused, provide discounts for those who bring their own utensils, and sort garbage into recyclables, kitchen waste, and general waste. Low carbon measures include promotion of public transportation and switch to energy-conserving LED lights. Cleanliness measures include the installation of cooking smoke- control equipment and oil-water separation facilities, food-related wastewater discharge improvement, and the maintenance of the market environment and public restroom cleanliness.
In addition, the EPA collaborated with local governments to promote plastic shopping bag reuse, carry-out beverage cup or utensil rental pilot programs, and the reduced use of single-use products in large events. All these were designed to motivate the public to gradually change their habit of discard after a single use.
Moreover, to cut down on packaging wastes from online shopping, the EPA has been worked with industries, government agencies, academia, research institutes, and environmental organizations to formulate the Online Shopping Packaging Reduction Guidelines (網購包裝減量指引). To encourage voluntary reduction, the EPA has begun to certify online shopping platforms with the reduced packaging label. This ensures that the shipping of goods traded on these platforms will comply with the “reduced packaging, environment-friendly packaging material, or recycled packaging material” principles.
Resource recycling and reuse
(1) Enhancing plastic waste recycling and reuse
A. Promoting waste plastic wrapping recycling and reuse
Plastic wrapping used by hypermarkets and logistics enterprises is mostly made of polyethylene and is resistant to oil and other contaminants. A platform has been set up to connect upstream and downstream enterprises to turn the wrapping into recycled plastic feedstock material. Currently, Carrefour has agreed to make its stores into demonstration sites for plastic wrapping recycling. Further tasks are underway to promote plastic wrapping recycling and reuse.
B. Promoting Bottle-to-Bottle Initiative
To be part of the global trend and enhance plastic resource recycling, the EPA has been promoting the Bottle-to-Bottle Initiative, which promotes the use of recycled plastic material in manufacturing non-food-use plastic containers. The EPA is targeting enterprises that manufacture non-food-use containers and assessing the use of economic incentives to encourage the gradual increase of the use of recycled plastic materials in manufacturing non-food-use containers.
C. Recycling and reuse of agricultural mulch films and fishing nets
The EPA has been working with the Council of Agriculture and the Fisheries Agency on the disposal of agricultural and fishing wastes (such as waste mulch films and fishing nets) that are not biodegradable. Agricultural and fishery authorities are responsible for assisting the production sources and setting up collection and recycling facilities, while the EPA helps to match the source enterprises with the back-end recycling and reuse enterprises. Current demonstration sites for mulch film recycling are Pingtung County (since July 2019) and Yuchi Township, Nantou County (since December 2019). Assistance is provided to farmers in cleaning and colleting waste mulch films, which are then sent to reuse facilities for processing. Once the whole mechanism can operate smoothly, it will be promoted in other counties and cities to enhance recycling.
(2) Promoting waste solar panel recycling and disposal
With the EPA’s promotion and assistance to enterprises, a waste solar panel processing facility has been established and another one is being established in Taiwan. It is estimated that there will be four processing facilities by 2020. Should there be too many waste panels for domestic facilities to process in the short run, some panels could be shipped to facilities in Germany or Japan. Additionally, registration to dispose of waste panels has been open since October 2019. A total of 14 enterprises had set up accounts by December 2019, but no waste panels have been disposed of via the mechanism to date.
(3) Promoting cellphone recycling
The EPA has designated October of every year as Cellphone Recycling Month, and held the first Cellphone Recycling Month event in October 2019. A total of 23,000 cellphones were recycled during this event. This year the activities of Cellphone Recycling Month will be jointly planned by cellphone producers, cellphone retailers, and telecommunications companies under the guidance of the Taipei Computer Association.
(4) Turning flammable industrial wastes into solid recovered fuels (SRFs)
To raise resource use efficiency, the EPA has been promoting the use of flammable industrial wastes as fuels by turning flammable wastes such as waste plastics, fibers (clothing), or paper mixtures into solid recovered fuels (SRFs), which can be used in boilers.
The EPA also locates and encourages existing industrial boilers or cement kilns to use high-heating-value wastes such as plastics, rubbers, or SRFs as auxiliary or alternative fuels, and assists them with installation of special boilers or equipment.
(5) Promoting the reuse of inorganic aggregate materials and fly ash
The EPA has been promoting the reuse of inorganic aggregate materials in public construction projects and has formulated the quality and environmental use standards. Relevant construction guidelines and manuals for these materials have also been revised. In addition, the EPA has announced and promoted fly ash reutilization and management methods. After rinsing, fly ash can be used as alternative raw materials for cement, slagging agents in manufacturing steel, and acid-base neutralizers in high-temperature smelting. All these reutilization methods can divert fly ash from landfills and extend their lifespans.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 23 (8)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)