On 28 September, the EPA and various ministries of the government announced the start of the “2021 Taiwan Circular Economy Week” at a press conference at the Taipei International Convention Center. In addition to the EPA, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Council of Agriculture (COA), this year the event also has the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and the Public Construction Commission (PCC) participating for the first time. This diversifies and enriches the event, while showing that Taiwan is placing more importance on circular economy issues.
The Circular Economy Week actually spans from September to November this year, highlighting four major areas: circular plastics, circular construction, circular agriculture and solid recovered fuel. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event is being held partly in person and partly online, to display Taiwan’s achievements and visions in the implementation of a circular economy.
Featured are eleven major events that take place successively, including: ESG and Sustainable Manufacturing Summit; Circular Economy Innovation Exhibition – 2030 Future All Together; Taiwan Innotech Expo – Circular Economy Physical and Online Exhibitions; Innovation and Business Matchmaking Conference; Circular Design Workshop, and; Outstanding Enterprises Award Ceremony and Summit. Through the activities organized by the participating ministries, these events display the circular economy achievements of many industries in Taiwan in different forms and areas such as resource recycling, zero waste, and innovative technology and business models. There are also tours arranged to visit the plastic-free island facilities in Penghu County and to view the achievements of front-line practitioners such as the Cultural Heritage Building Material Bank, a biotech material plant, a circular residential building complex, and a vehicle disassembly factory in Tainan City. Online forums also continue to be held for participants to discuss and exchange views on circular agriculture issues with international practitioners in the Netherlands, Germany and Canada. In addition, a Taiwan Circular Economy 100 (TCE100) Forum will also be held to demonstrate the determination of enterprises in promoting a circular economy.
“The pandemic has not defeated us, but has made us stronger”, said EPA Deputy Minister Shen Chih-hsiu. To help domestic industries move towards a new milestone of green recovery in the post-pandemic era, the EPA has decided to continue to organize this annually held circular economy week event, inviting domestic and foreign industries, governments and academia to participate. It is hoped that substantial exchanges that occur during the event will encourage matchmaking between industries and deepen the transformation of domestic enterprises.
The EU and countries such as Japan and Korea have proposed circular economy related action plans and programs as a basis to realize their circular economy visions for the next ten years. Deputy Minister Shen pointed out that Taiwan imports 76% of its resources and needs to address important questions of how to fully reuse and circulate resources by finding ways to facilitate material flows from “venous industries” back to “arterial industries”. Toward this goal, the EPA formally established the Office of Resource Circulation in July this year, placing it in charge of overall resource circulation policy-making and management. Through regulation, resource integration or other means, the office will step out of the existing framework of dividing tasks based on regulatory categories. Instead it will adopt a management approach based on the lifecycles of materials and resources, pay attention to the reutilization of waste resources and energy, and implement three important policy objectives: turn combustible waste into energy, convert organic waste into bioenergy, and use inorganic waste in marine projects in ways that promote sustainable use of resources.
Deputy Minister Shen declared that the EPA will do its best to coordinate and promote resource circulation to turn waste into energy or resources, find suitable uses and destinations for recycled products, and establish a development model for material recycling and reuse. This will help move Taiwan towards full resource circulation, maximizing useful resource circulation and minimizing waste disposal, thereby reducing the environmental impacts caused by the consumption and use of primary resources.
The Deputy Minister of the MOEA Tseng Wen-sheng said that the island of Taiwan is like an ark: it must be self-sufficient and the resources within it self-circulating. Since President Tsai Ing-wen proposed moving towards a circular economy in her 2016 inauguration speech, the MOEA has been actively implementing the policy. To encourage more industries and people to participate, the Executive Yuan has committed itself in a cross-ministerial manner to focus on three points: removal of regulatory obstacles, continuous technological research and development, and development of business models.
Currently the government is starting to deal with the issues of construction waste in a cross-ministerial manner, and therefore the Construction and Planning Agency and the Public Construction Commission (PCC) also participated in this event for the first time. The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of the Interior, Chiu Chang-yueh, pointed out that the construction industry can utilize the most waste, for example slag and coal ash can be used as building or filling materials. However, construction waste also accounts for more than 10% of total waste. For this reason, the MOI is actively promoting the use of green construction materials. Currently there are more than 20,000 kinds of green construction materials to choose from. It is hoped that by holding industrial workshops, circular construction systems can be established to stabilize markets and supply sources, and a true circular construction industry can be formed. The Deputy Minister of the PCC, Yan Jeou-rong, said that for resources to be properly used in public projects, the PCC has formulated relevant regulations, labels and standard operating procedures in recent years in such a way that recycled resources will meet high quality requirements and be desired by all counties and cities to be used in public projects, hence activating a new circular cooperation model.
There have also been several developments in circular agriculture. MOEA Deputy Minister Tseng stated that the Covid-19 related suspension of using food waste as pigswill has brought an opportunity to Taiwan to grow during a crisis, and the Industrial Technology Research Institute is currently providing a technology that uses black soldier flies to convert proteins contained in food waste into animal feed proteins. At the other end of the livestock feed cycle, Deputy Minister of the COA Huang Chin-cheng said that after striving for the past four to five years, chicken manure treatment technologies have matured, and in addition there are now eight pilot plants devoted to promoting bioenergy applications for swine manure. Furthermore, use of bamboo as a green construction material or fuel is also attracting attention and is being actively researched.
The Chairman of Circular Taiwan Network, Charles Huang, reminded participants that to achieve net-zero emissions, government and industry have to undergo the transition to circularity together. The “linear supply chains” of the old economic model are to be diverted to “circular supply networks”. Enterprises should change to view supply from the perspective of demand, stepping out of the old concept of being outsourced manufacturers, and providing service-oriented or knowledge-based services. Mr. Huang stressed, net-zero emissions cannot be accomplished by a country or an enterprise alone, but requires transnational, cross-ministerial and cross-industry cooperation. During the transition, the enterprises and ministries of Taiwan need to actively seek international cooperation, changing the past idea of “Taiwan can follow” into “Taiwan can help”.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, October 2021
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)