Sat, Jun 22, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan a recycling example for Asia: experts

Thomson Reuters Foundation, BANGKOK

Once dubbed “garbage island” for its overflowing landfills and filthy streets, Taiwan now has Asia’s highest rate of recycling and is a role model for the region, analysts said on Thursday.

With untreated waste causing marine pollution and clogged drains triggering fatal floods from Bangkok to Manila, Southeast Asian cities should look to Taiwan’s success in reducing and recycling waste, they said.

“Taiwan didn’t do anything mystical; it just developed good policy based on the experiences of others,” Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research consultant Nate Maynard said. “If Southeast Asian countries adopted the same core principles, then they could develop their own models that work.”

Reducing waste is becoming a global priority amid growing calls for more aggressive action on climate change and plastic pollution, particularly in urban areas, which the UN has projected will house 60 percent of the global population by 2030.

Environmentalists asked leaders at the 10-member ASEAN summit to create a “sustainable and ethical circular economy” that reduces the harmful effects of poor waste management amid rapid growth.

“Countries should be thinking about reducing consumption of plastic, redesigning products to reduce waste and more recycling,” said Penchom Saetang of advocacy group Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand. “We have seen the devastating impacts of improper waste management on communities. The price we pay in terms of loss of health, land and clean drinking water is incalculable.”

Taiwan’s reforms were started two decades ago by residents in the capital, Taipei, who protested the city’s inaction on waste management, resulting in “pay-as-you-throw” taxes, where charges depend on the amount of garbage produced.

Presorted waste is also handed to musical garbage trucks that make the rounds five nights per week, while residents and businesses are encouraged to generate less waste, with stringent penalties for infractions, waste experts said.

“Taiwan did all this at a time of relatively lower economic development and without a long history of environmentalism. The movement was driven by grassroots efforts and public protests,” Maynard said.

Taiwan recycles about 55 percent of its municipal solid waste — the second-highest rate globally, said Grayson Shor, a circular economy consultant to the US government-funded American Institute in Taiwan.

Its per capita daily waste generation has fallen nearly 20 percent in two decades, with landfill sites being converted into parks and community centers, he added.

“Taiwan has been able to do this as a result of its green technology and design innovations in public education,” Shor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is ... easily transferable to other Asian countries.”

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