With public policies and citizens’ commitment, Taiwan gives correct destination to 55% of its artificial and biological waste and keeps encouraging the population to separate all the waste they produce

In 1993, the waste collection index in Taiwan, an island also called “The Republic of China”, was 70%. There were almost no regulated methods to do selective collection or to give a destination to waste for recycling. In the mid-1990s, two-thirds of the landfills were saturated.

An upgrade in the lifestyle of the population in Taiwan – nowadays a little more than 23m inhabitants – and the consequent increase of consumption level, led the island to be unpleasantly coined “Garbage Island”. In face of this emergency related to waste destination, the government took controversial actions, which started to be tested all over the Taiwanese territory.

One of them was to use incinerators to burn residues, which resulted in some resistance. Simultaneously, though, some public bodies adopted a new residue management methodology, encouraging citizens to participate in the selective collection and companies to encourage practices aimed at reducing the generation of waste and the responsibility over the destination of these residues.

Companies who could not deal with the volume of waste they produced were forced to pay taxes to subsidize necessary infrastructure projects to better handle these residues. The population was also forced to collaborate. by separating their own waste.

It was worth it.

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Musical trucks

Nowadays, Taiwan’s residents separate their waste by categories and wait for the trucks that run twice a day – the first time, warning that it’s on the way, and the second time collecting the waste. The first time, playing Für Elise, a famous symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven; the truck parade comes afterwards.

Each vehicle receives one specific type of waste: raw food, cooked food (both receive differentiated treatments), plastic, paper, glass and aluminum, among others. However, to avoid problems with the right time of collection, it is possible to track the trucks via a  smartphone app.

For those who need even more flexibility, the city of Taipei, capital of Taiwan, installed a smart recycling stand which charges public transportation tickets of a user for each recyclable bottle or can correctly discarded at the station.

The result of all this is that nowadays a person in Taiwan produces, on average, 850 grams of waste per day, whereas 15 years ago, the average  was 1.2 kg. The recycling rates are higher than 50%, although these numbers have been contradicted. Many of the incinerators in the island are now below their capacity.  In general, the island produces more recyclable residues than non-recyclable residues.

The territory already reuses its waste in useful and creative ways in several aspects. The 9-story EcoARK pavilion, for instance, is a great exhibition area located in the heart of the capital of Taiwan. It was built using bricks made with various waste materials, such as aluminum cans, shoe soles and cigarette butts. It is a great change in such a little time with important impacts on the image of the island.

Content published in February 19, 2019

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