Sustainable Resource Utilization via Circular Economy


Taiwan's recycling goal has changed from the conventional end-of-pipe treatment to the current source reduction, gradually heading toward the goal of zero waste. Through the implementation of 2018-2020 Resource Recycling and Reuse Plans, the EPA hopes to build a circular economy and achieve sustainability, including maximizing resource utilization and minimizing the impacts on the environment.
 Launched in 1997, the EPAs Four-in-one Resource Recycling Plan has combined four forces, including communities, recycling enterprises, local sanitation crews, and the Recycling Fund, with government authorities. It aims to establish recycling channels participated by all citizens and completely solve garbage treatment problems with a proper treatment rate of over 99%.

However, rapid economic development and drastic increase of the types and quantity of industrial wastes has led to more complicated treatment methods and higher costs. The conventional end-of-pipe treatment can no longer meet modern needs. In order to achieve a circular economy of zero waste, the EPA is currently implementing the following measures:
Strengthening industrial waste reutilization management

The EPA announced the Management Regulations for Reuse of Common Industrial Waste on 8 January 2018. Eight industrial wastes -- food waste, waste cooking oil, waste iron, waste paper, waste glass, waste plastic, waste single metal (copper, zinc, aluminum, and tin), and waste cement telecommunication lines -- are listed for control and management under the EPA.

Subsequently, an announcement on 9 January 2018 mandated tracking of reused coal ash, waste casting sand, and electric arc furnace slag. Each competent authority should conduct environmental monitoring if their reuses are potentially affecting the environment.

On 27 November 2018, the amended Industries Required to Submit Online Reports of Waste Production, Storage, Clearance, Treatment, Reuse, Export, and Import and Industries Required to Submit Industrial Waste Clearance Plans were both announced. The revisions are specifically to include evaluation for industrial waste clearance plans for the purpose of reuse.

Resource Recycling and Reuse

 (1) Implementation of 2018-2020 Resource Recycling and Reuse Plan
Besides incorporating the concept of circular economy, the Resource Recycling and Reuse Plan launched in 2018, promotes strategies based on life cycles of various materials. Under the strategies covering production, consumption, waste management, and reused material markets, the EPA has formulated cross-departmental action strategies, measures, and key performance indexes and determined that plastic, metals, construction waste, and food waste would be the first to implement upon.

As it carries out the Plan, the EPA hopes to build a circular economy and achieve sustainability, maximizing resource utilization and minimizing environmental impacts. Recycling and reuse of waste plastic and construction waste were the targets set in 2018, and members of the committee reviewed the results of the project in the Resource Recycling and Reuse Promotion Committee of EPA.

 (2) Cradle-to-cradle (C2C) design concepts and circular economy evaluation

To encourage companies to prioritize product design from the beginning and enhance public awareness of C2C design concepts and understanding of circular economy, the EPA continued to invite corporations to participate in the C2C Platform in 2018. To date, the platform has 94 members. In 2018, nine meetings were organized with group discussions to increase exchanges among members and promote the platform.

Evaluation for circular economy of waste resources had been conducted in 2018 on reuse institutes to further encourage and promote reuse. After the evaluation, nine of 74 enterprises that signed up were awarded with two stars, and 15 with one star. Enterprises with excellent performances are used as examples to encourage and guide each industry to commit to circular economy. Moreover, the EPA hopes that the evaluation will become an index on the promotion of circular economy by various industries.

 (3) Promoting recycling and treatment of waste solar panels
In response to future treatment of waste photoelectricity modules, the EPA has planned out a semi-automatic recycling mechanism and mandated enterprises to fulfill their extended producer responsibilities (EPRs). A joint recycling, clearance, and treatment organization is to be established by enterprises.
Before the revisions, waste recycling, clearance, and treatment fees collected by the Bureau of Energy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and fees specially applied by the EPA were used on recycling, clearance, and treatment of waste solar panels. After the revisions, the EPA has become in charge of collecting the relevant fees, which are managed under the Recycling Fund.

Strengthening functions of Recycling Fund

1. Perfecting management of recycling and treatment channels
The EPA has actively encouraged authorities in charge to conduct recycling plans, open up recycling channels, and increase recycling results.

(1) Authorities in charge of recycling have been supplied with needed equipment and facilities. In 2019, it is expected to subsidize purchase of 11 loaders, construction of one and renovation of three recycling and storage sites, and replacement of 192 hybrid recycling vehicles.
(2) The Neighborhood Recycling Station Plan prescribes the setting up of 1,400 stations in 2019. As many as 1,299 had been set up by February 2019 to strengthen the recycling system.
(3) The Circular Economy and Recycling Army Plan prescribes the hiring of 2,982 people every month in average in 2019 to help sort recycled wastes. The EPA will also try to prevent self-employed recyclers from being financially affected by price changes in the recycling market.
(4) The Recycling Care Program, newly launched in 2019, focuses on self-employed recyclers that are also medium-low income households. For wastes required to be recycled, subsidies of NT$5/kg or NT$20/set (or unit) are provided. Among them, the subsidy for waste paper container has been raised from NT$5/kg to NT$10/kg since July 1 2019.

(5) Annual performance evaluation is conducted on competent authorities, where exchanges on innovative recycling methods in different areas are also carried out to raise recycling efficiency.

To set up a comprehensive system of recycling and treatment channels, 618 recyclers and 91 treatment enterprises had obtained registration licenses as of the end of February. Among those, 224 recyclers and 76 treatment enterprises have been subsidized. The EPA has finished helping subsidize enterprises to set up closed-circuit television, measuring equipment and systems. The monitoring efficiency has also been raised through monitoring operations of both subsidized enterprises and inspecting and certifying organizations. Measuring and weighing data can now be uploaded to an online system without manually keying in the data, largely cutting down costs and raising efficiency.

The EPA has been publicly asking innovative and research projects on recycling and treatment in order to encourage enterprises to develop recycling and treatment technology, attract talents, and create reuse channels. 15 applications were approved in 2018, and 17 in 2019.

2. Monitoring responsible enterprises to practice recyclable waste management

A total of 23,714 responsible enterprises (35,096 per company/time) had been listed under control as of the end of May 2019 with 804,676 pieces of registered data of operation evaluated and put into the system. Responsible enterprises can pay fees in banks, post offices, and convenience stores. To provide a convenient way to pay fee, or they can set up a link on the reporting system via the e-bill website and pay directly online.

During January and May in 2019, an accounting firm was commissioned to audit 757 recycling and treatment enterprises, which has larger amount of reported recycling, clearance, and treatment fees. The audited fees amounted to approximately NT$2.816 billion. Rate of enterprises accurately reporting fees is 99.19%.

Promoting recycling to increase effectiveness

There were1.407 million metric tons of recyclable waste in 2018 and 119,000 metric tons in January 2019. The EPA actively helps Southeast Asian countries develop business opportunities for recycling industry-needed technology and equipment by assisting them with evaluations and skill-building projects and exchanging recycling and reuse technology. A toll-free phone number is in place to assist anyone in need. The resource recycling system had adopted its website with responsive website design (RWD) and issued e-newsletters to intensify online promotion with interactive videos, images, texts, and social networks. Until the end of May 2019, civil organizations had been sponsored to hold 52 recycling and treatment promotion activities, with a total of 82,110 participants.

Future prospect
The EPA believes the future policies of circular economy should aim for resource sustainability. With recycling, reuse, and innovation as the guidelines, the EPA has been adopting the idea of materials life cycles and circular utilization and gradually heading toward the final goal of zero-waste. In addition to the conventional 3Rs (reduce, recycle, and reuse), another 3Rs -- recovery of energy, land reclamation, and redesign -- have also been introduced to build a circular economy.

Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 22 (6)

Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)
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