From industrial waste reduction in its early days to the recent reduction at source, the direction of industrial waste management in Taiwan has gradually incorporated new concepts such as sustainable materials management (SMM) and from-cradle-to-cradle (C2C). Through combining reuse and management of industrial wastes, the EPA will keep pushing for resource cycling and zero waste as Taiwan’s long-term goals.
How it began
Waste management in Taiwan started with the promulgation of the Waste Disposal Act in 1974. When established in 1987, the EPA began to keep track of industrial waste production and set up a permit system concerning clearance and disposal organizations. As different industries were gradually placed under control, industrial waste treatment became a focal point for the EPA.
Beginning in 1990, the core policy has been to cut industrial waste generation by pushing for clean production technology, specifying recycling and reuse guidelines, opening up diverse reuse channels, and improving proper treatment technology. In recent years, the approach has shifted to reduction at source. Concepts like SMM and C2C have been introduced into Taiwan one after another.
Strengthening industrial waste management can be examined in two aspects: Strengthening management of the waste disposal system, and tracking industrial waste flows.
Strengthening management of the waste disposal system
(1) Strengthening management of clearance and disposal organizations
To effectively manage the operation of clearance and disposal organizations, the EPA forms inspection plans every year for waste clearance and disposal equipment and organizations currently in operation. Regional competent authorities are also encouraged to conduct regular onsite inspection to properly ascertain actual practices and operations at treatment organizations. Inspection mainly focuses on online registration and operation documentation, storage methods and facilities, treatment and operation maintenance, clearance of waste generated after treatment, product flows, and so on. Moreover, the EPA continues to assist enterprises in their applications for setting up waste disposal organizations. From 2016 to 2018, a total of 23 enterprises obtained clearance and disposal permission to improve their own waste disposal channels.
On 22 December 2018, the EPA announced revisions of the Regulations Concerning Permisssions for Citizens’ Waste Clearance and disposal to improve the management system for waste clearance and disposal. One of the revision details is that disposal facilities are mandated to present their own standards for taking in waste, conduct tests on waste and products, and keep records on business, management, and operations. The aim is to keep track of products reutilized from treated waste so that waste can be properly cleared and disposed of. Clearance and disposal prices are required to be disclosed to the public in order to establish a pricing and market mechanism for waste clearance and disposal. Meanwhile, the EPA is requiring clearance and disposal organizations to join relevant associations based on the Commercial Group Act to enhance coordination among associated enterprises and tighten links among competent authorities.
(2) Management of industrial waste categorized as industrial-raw material
Waste paper and plastic have been announced as industrial-raw materials since 2003. As 70% of industrial feedstocks are imported due to inadequate natural resources locally, suddenly stopping imports of industry-use materials would seriously impact industries that are unable to source needed materials in Taiwan. Therefore, the EPA has been focusing on management and planning to improve material quality, setting up importer data, and adding controls on registrations.
Opinions have been collected from all stakeholders and sectors in order to understand concerns around the environmental impacts brought by imported industry-use materials. The EPA also considered the implications of China’s no-waste policy, as part of its effort to tighten controls of imported materials and protect the recycling system in Taiwan as quickly as possible.
On 4 October 2018, the EPA announced the Industrial Wastes Categorized As Industrial-Raw Materials. The content included adjusted criteria for the importation of waste plastic and waste paper, specified import limits, and relevant quality controls.
(3) Enhancing at-source reduction of industrial waste and self-management
Since 2018, civil society groups in Taiwan have been gradually and voluntarily promoting the Green Deal, based on referencing concepts of the Netherland’s Green Deal. The Alliance of a Circular Economy of Marine Waste Plastic, the Green E-Resource Alliance, and the Alliance of Circular Resources for Taiwan’s Construction Industry have been set up. The purpose of these alliances target at the recycle and reuse of waste plastic, e-waste, wastes generated from construction and demolition, incinerator bottom ash, and slag. Various groups voluntarily promoted the signing of the Green Deal and now strive to create win-wins for the economy and environmental protection via cooperation with the public sector. The semiconductor industry has been assisted to recycle and reuse waste solutions and solvents, with work done at source management and sorting of solvents. Moreover, the industry has begun pushing for testing wastewater treatment plants located in industrial parks, and exploring the feasibility of using low-concentration waste isopropanol, which is only generated in the semiconductor industry, as a carbon source.
Regarding collection, clearance, disposal, and reuse of agricultural waste, the EPA has planned to establish a recycling, treatment, and reuse mechanism for waste orchard branches and other residual materials from agricultural production. Pingtung County’s experiences in crushing, centralized storage and clearance and reuse of waste orchard branches, all commissioned, are greatly relied upon for reference. The practices have been promoted to municipalities, counties, cities, and townships that produce large amounts of waste orchard branches. The EPA also designated Pingtung County as a demonstration point and assisted the agricultural industry to voluntarily establish a circular system for recycling and reuse of residual materials.
Tracking the flow of industrial waste
To better track the flow of industrial waste, the EPA announced the revised Regulations Concerning Clearance and Transport Machinery Required to Be Equipped With Real-Time Tracking Systems on 17 August 2018. The list of clearance and transport vehicles required to install a real-time tracking system is now expanded to include those that clear and transport wastes like sludge, construction waste, and waste plastic. In addition, the EPA further required all clearance and transport vehicles with operation permissions to be equipped with such a system. The measure is expected to put all machinery and vehicles under control in four stages from 2019 to 2022. Additionally, the EPA will utilize new technology by including collision sensors and signals for power failures in vehicles and machinery specifications to increase stability and accuracy of vehicle track signals.
In the future, the EPA will continue to improve management of industrial waste reuse as it gradually works toward reaching Taiwan’s goals of resources cycling and zero waste.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 22 (7)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)