Thu, Dec 04, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan to recycle discarded CDs by middle next year

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan, the largest manufacturer of compact discs in the world, will begin to recycle this product as early as next July, when required regulations have been established, Environmental Protection Administrator Chang Juu-en (張祖恩) said yesterday.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday were criticized by legislators for their lax efforts to recycle compact discs, which are composed of plastic materials and diverse metals, including aluminum, gold, silver and titanium.

According to legislators, Taiwan produces 5.5 billion compact discs annually, including 4.7 billion discs for overseas markets. Common compact discs are classified into read-only memory (CD-ROM), recordable disc (CD-R) and rewritable disc (CD-RW).

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Kuei-lien (鄭貴蓮) yesterday urged the administration to establish regulations encouraging the public to recycle discs.

"More than 800 million compact discs are sold annually on the domestic market. It's inappropriate to dispose of the discs only in landfills or incinerators," Cheng said.

If compact discs are dumped at landfills, he said, soil and groundwater would be polluted by heavy metals. In addition, burning compact discs containing plastic materials in incinerators might produce the dangerous chemical dioxin.

Chang said that the EPA had entrusted the Industrial Technology Research Institute with conducting a feasibility study on recycling compact discs. The final report will be completed by the end of this year.

"We estimate that the product will be efficiently recycled as early as July next year, if related regulations are established," Chang said.

Cheng's colleagues, including Kuo Jung-tsung (郭榮宗) of the DPP, and Chen Li-hui (陳麗惠) and Chang Tsai-mei (張蔡美) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), also expressed their concerns over pollution resulting from untreated compact discs.

According to Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文), director-general of the EPA's Bureau of Solid Waste Management, the administration so far had no clear picture of the amount of unwanted compact discs that had to be recycled annually.

But according to a preliminary study by the institute, which estimates that discs have a 4-year lifespan and a 2 percent damage rate during the recording process, about 60 million compact discs weighing 990 tonnes are discarded annually in Taiwan. This conservative estimation excludes discs with defects discarded by the manufacturing sector.

According to a Ministry of Economic Affairs publication in December last year, discs damaged during the manufacturing process accounts for about 10 percent of total production.

According to the EPA, there has been only one environmental service company so far that systematically recycles compact discs. The Kaohsiung-based company, which received its license in August, is expected to recycle as many as 300 million compact discs annually. The company now produces 400 tonnes of plastic materials a month from discarded and recycled compact discs. Meanwhile, two other companies are applying for similar licenses.

Administration officials said that it's worthwhile to recycle unwanted compact discs because the production volume is still increasing significantly.

In addition to production, officials said, other factors affecting the recycling of compact discs would be considered, including potential environmental pollution, consumer behavior, the market economy and executive strategies.

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