When FIFA World Cup soccer players wore T-shirts made by Taiwanese manufacturers from recycled plastic bottles that many called “trash,” society applauded. But when businesses import recycled “garbage,” people jeer! Perhaps we should re-acknowledge the fact that “trash = resource.”
In the circular economy model, there is no trash. Only resources that are impure in quality, incorrectly labeled or misplaced. Why are companies competing to buy thrown away PET bottles from Japan? Because the Japanese sorts well – the cap and the label must be separated from the bottle, and only rinsed bottles can be recycled. While a high-quality PET is still considered to be trash by the average person, to businesses, it is a valuable industry material. This year, PP and ABS like plastic materials and raw materials like pulp rose more than 20% in price, and such rise in cost is a risk to the industry. For Taiwan, a country that relies on 90% import of raw materials, how to turn trash into key local renewable resource is no longer a maybe/maybe not option!
As the linear economy has caused an overuse of raw materials and created serious environmental damages, countries around the world have set a reduced resource consumption goal: The EU plans to increase its resources efficiency by 30% by 2030. Holland is even more ambitious and plans to increase resource efficiency by 50%. Specific companies have also set their own goals: Apple commits to only using 100% renewable energy and recyclable materials, Adidas will only use recycled plastic by 2024, IKEA pledges by 2020 to have all houseware products be made by reusable and recyclable materials. There are many more examples …
Many Taiwanese companies are a part of the aforementioned supply chain. Can we exist outside of this trend? Is this a danger or an opportunity to transform for Taiwanese businesses? Taiwan has a high recycling rate and leads the world in key technology. Even if we were to meet an occasional challenge, we should mobilize as a society to systematize circular economy thinking, and make resource recycling and recirculation Taiwan’s best asset, eventually setting the world standard on how it’s practiced.
In waste recycling, every part is essential and indispensable, thus it needs a systematic “policy and complete support measures” in place. Consumers must sort waste properly and ensure the quality of recyclable items. Business must ensure that the industry and manufacturers are upholding their responsibilities, using circular designs and accepting responsibility for the product life cycle. In addition, there must be a continuous revision and implementation of laws, such as setting regulation for recycled pellets and upstream or downstream tracking. There also needs to be a substance and technical inventory of recycled waste. Cooperation must be encouraged through financial incentives.
Regarding the issue of importing trash, we need to use more specialized discussion to gain general consensus on it as well as the following topics: actively promote circular Taiwan, increase resource efficiency, invest in the research and development of a waste recycling industry, and increase circular economy education. We must take advantage of the “opportunity to transform!”