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BEST-L  July 2016

BEST-L July 2016

Subject:

Sustainable Development #8: Taiwan’s modern recycling turnaround

From:

"Spaulding,Alec B" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Spaulding,Alec B

Date:

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 06:54:37 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (73 lines)

Sustainable Development #8

Taiwan’s modern recycling turnaround


      Boasting a 55% recycling rate, Taiwan is a model for waste 
management.  This is especially true in the capital city, Taipei, where 
the recycling rate is double the United States’.

      Such an achievement has been a contemporary transformation.  
Multiple American expatriates have personally illustrated to me how 
drastic the improvement has been.  According to my sources, over two 
decades ago the streets seemingly ran red with betel nut (the Taiwanese 
equivalent of dip tobacco) while the public drains were clogged with 
plastic bags.  These colorful descriptions compared the uncleanliness of 
Taipei to anywhere in Southeast Asia.

      Likely guided by Japanese principles, Taiwan has implemented 
impressive measures to establish resource self-sufficiency.  An overhaul 
of the waste management system has resulted in recycling efficiency 
which the government proudly compares to that of the European Union.  
Implicit in this success is the cooperation of the average person.  
Citizen involvement has been facilitated through prohibitive trashbag 
fees and increasing the accessibility of recycling.  The government has 
additionally established recycling as a societal value by leveraging the 
cultural desire for cohesion, publically showcasing rewards and 
punishments.  Violators may be shamed in public forums (their identities 
protected), certainly facing hefty fines.  Conversely, commercials and 
posters commending proper recycling behavior are abundant. One man was 
awarded $21,460USD, reported a local news source, for diligently 
curtailing violations.

      What isn’t as widely praised is the common practice of 
enterprising citizens pre-sorting recyclable materials to extract the 
most profitable goods.  I have firsthand witness of the symbiosis 
between industrious scrappers and municipal waste employees.  The 
sorters are rewarded via the goods they can sell to recycling centers 
while the workers’ jobs are eased, the initial processing having been 
already completed.

      The only real shortcoming of the contemporary system is the level 
of public resources required.  The incomes from the blue trashbags, 
recycled materials, and violation fines are not enough to cover 
expenses.  Cities across the island require subsidies from the national 
government to maintain their programs.  However, Taiwanese public 
services are esteemed by the people, who widely perceive them as 
efficient necessities.

      Though perhaps not yet economically sustainable, the waste 
management revolution in Taiwan is even still an international 
inspiration.  The relatively quick turnaround from pollution to solution 
is a development worth appreciation.


“Taiwan: the world’s geniuses of garbage disposal” – Kathy Chen 
– The Wall Street Journal – May 17, 2016
http://www.wsj.com/articles/taiwan-the-worlds-geniuses-of-garbage-disposal-1463519134

“Recycling achievements” – Recycling Fund Management Board (EPA 
of R.O.C.) – retrieved July 18, 2016
http://recycle.epa.gov.tw/Recycle/en/NAV07Content.htm

“Taiwanese Trash Nocturne” – Alec Spaulding – Unsolicited 
Assurance blog – July 16, 2016
http://unsolicitedassurance.blogspot.tw/2016/07/taiwanese-trash-turnaround.html
**Note: my lyrical rendition of the daily recycling ritual**


Cheers,
Al Spaulding
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Lab
Soil and Water Science Department, UF-IFAS
on location in Taipei, Taiwan

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