The Four-In-One Recycling Policy devised first in Taiwan has been implemented for a quarter of a century. Its achievements include, for example, a household garbage recycling rate of 56.4% and a reuse rate of 85.89%. In response to the drastic increase of plastic and paper tableware and utensils since 2020 due to the pandemic, various recycling measures have been adjusted. Through expansion of recycling and raised accountability, and by strengthening recycling channels, Taiwan has enhanced its recycling capacity and continued toward zero waste.
The EPA has since January 1997 encouraged communities to sort household garbage. A complete recycling network has been established by working with local authorities (cleaning crews), recycling enterprises, and the Recycling Fund to recycle and reduce household-generated small-size waste.
Since its implementation by the EPA in 2005, mandatory sorting requires all household waste to be sorted into resources, kitchen waste, and garbage, which are then separately taken or disposed of by cleaning crews. In addition, fees are collected for garbage bags used in certain counties, cities, and regions, which helps cut down the amount of garbage and enhances sorting, recycling, and reuse.
The results of promoting general waste recycling include recycling up to 5,807,647 metric tons of general waste in 2020 (consisting of 5,278,079 metric tons of recyclables and 529,567 metric tons of kitchen waste). 58.84% of general waste was recycled.
Taiwan's daily garbage generation per person since 1998 has decreased year after year. By 2020 the drop was 61.12% compared to the year with the highest daily garbage generation. The percentage of recyclables among the garbage also gradually fell, with the recycling rate at 62.71% in 2020.
With resource recycling and sustainable use as the policy core, the EPA will keep striving for resource integration by promoting garbage reduction, recycling, and reuse. The following are the improvement measures:
Expanding recycling and raising accountability
(1) Announcing newly added articles of responsibility
1. Waste lubricants, plastic lining and foam cases have been announced as recyclables after evaluation. Fees are collected from manufacturers and importers as recycling and disposal costs.
2. Evaluating the expansion of control for refrigerators and freezers as articles of responsibility
Refrigerators and freezers used in business venues were not listed as articles of responsibility. However, in recent years these items of large capacity (approximately 100 to 200 liters) are often sold directly to the public in retail stores. The EPA has begun evaluating the feasibility of listing them as recyclables in response to the future recycling and disposal requirements of large waste items.
(2) Setting responsible enterprises’ levied fees and streamlining fee collection
The rate of levied fees for small-scale responsible enterprises (with levied fees less than NT$100,000/year) were amended to simplify the process. The EPA first audits and calculates the amount of levied fees and then notifies enterprises of the payment. 95% of the amount of waste audited in the first year is used in fee calculation to simplify the fee collection process. The revised Responsible Enterprise Regulated Recyclable Waste Management Regulations (應回收廢棄物責任業者管理辦法) were announced on 29 June 2020, followed by the announcement of the revised document formats on 13 July 2020. This revision has designed the operation procedures and set-up and thoroughly maintains the operation registration system. A total of 11,261 responsible enterprises benefited in 2020 because of the revised rate of levied fees.
(3) Adjusting subsidy rates for plastic containers and paper tableware in response to the pandemic
In order to prevent the short-term decline in raw material prices from affecting the willingness to recycle waste plastic containers, subsidies for specific waste plastic containers were raised in May 2020. Also raised at the same time were the subsidies for waste paper tableware and utensils (from NT$7.25/kilogram to NT$7.86/kilogram) in anticipation of increased use amid tightened pandemic control. Both adjusted rates are effective from 1 May to 31 October 2020.
On 30 October 2020, it was announced that the adjusted subsidies for PET containers, PP or PE containers, non-foam PS containers and waste flat containers (PET or PVC) would continue until 30 June 2021. Subsidies for waste paper tableware and utensils will not be extended as they were properly recycled and disposed of throughout the pandemic.
Strengthening recycling channels
(1) Optimizing and building recycling plants
In 2020, 69 projects concerning preliminary evaluation, planning, and design of regional storage sites and sorting plants were approved. It included 51 for optimization, 15 for construction, and three for sorting plants. Ongoing planning and detail designs are gradually being completed, and it is estimated 35 construction projects will commence in 2021.
(2) Replacing old recycling vehicles
1. A program was implemented in 2020 to subsidize the replacement of old recycling vehicles. One hundred thirty-six old vehicles were phased out and replaced with diesel-powered ones compliant with Phase-6 emission standards. One-hundred ten more vehicles are expected to be replaced in 2021.
2. The EPA has also been implementing a major Executive Yuan mandated program to replace old garbage collection and recycling vehicles and purchase special-use machinery and personal safety gear. One-hundred-fifty recycling vehicles in use for over 15 years have been replaced with new ones compliant with Phase-6 emission standards.
(3) Strengthening local recycling
1. Promoting self-employed recycler welfare by increasing subsidies
The upper subsidy cap for individual self-employed recyclers has been raised from NT$3,500/month to NT$5,000/month. It is effective from 1 May 2020 to 30 June 2021 to mitigate the COVID pandemic’s economic impact on those working at the front line of recycling. Such subsidies will be extended until 31 December 2021 to take care of all registered self-employed recyclers.
Throughout 2020, a total of 20,936 people benefited, who had collected 9,215 metric tons of recyclables and 72,800 items (mostly electronics). Compared to 2019, the number of people who benefited grew 6.1-fold (3,444 people), and the number of recyclables 8.9-fold (1,030 metric tons).
2. Assisting recycling participants
Recycling is promoted by coordinating community residents, recycling enterprises, local cleaning crews, and the Recycling Fund. The results in 2019 and 2020 both exceeded the set goals: 55.14% in 2019 (goal of 53%), 56.96% in 2020 (goal of 53.5%).
Enhanced supervision and individual assistance have been continually provided to entities with poor recycling performance. A program has been implemented in 2021 to improve these entities’ recycling performance by setting recycling goals, conducting visits to innovative recycling sites, and evaluating performance related to poorly recycled items.
(4) Promoting recycling in apartment complexes within communities
To further the four-in-one recycling program and open up diverse recycling channels, the EPA has since 2021 strengthened basic-level recycling capacity by promoting recycling in apartment complexes. Property managers of communities, apartments, and high rises are assisted to set up recycling stations, and their staff are encouraged to work and communicate with cleaning crews. Moreover, guidelines have been set up for random inspections of recycling operations and to carry out mandatory garbage sorting correctly so as to improve recycling performance and sorting quality.
It is expected that 64 communities will be established as recycling facility demonstration sites and that they will randomly inspect and assist 809 apartment complexes across Taiwan. The results will be part of the evaluations for recycling in communities, apartments, and high rises.
Future prospects for reaching the goal of zero waste
To pursue sustainability of resources, Taiwan's garbage disposal policies focus on source reduction and recycling. All resources are to be efficiently recycled and reused by applying green production and consumption, source reduction, recycling, reutilization, and renewable use, which will gradually lead to the end goal of 100% garbage recycling and zero waste.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, June 2021
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)