A ban on tableware made from polylactide (PLA), a kind of bioplastic, at eight categories of venues in Taiwan, including supermarkets and convenience stores, came into effect on Aug. 1. PLA was promoted and used in response to implementation of plastic restriction policies, but now it, too, is restricted. Many people might wonder at the reasoning behind the policy change.
Although it is said to be biodegradable, PLA products are not treated as biological waste to be composted. Instead, they are incinerated, making carbon emission from them the same as from petrochemical-based plastics, only with higher production cost.
Moreover, it is made from corn and other grains, so not only does it have no economic benefits, it has a negative effect on food supply.
If the so-called biodegradable materials end up in rivers and oceans, and in fish and shellfish, they are as harmful to the environment as ordinary plastics.
As a disposable material that cannot be reused, most people cannot distinguish between PLA and recyclable plastics and therefore they get mixed together, making recyclable plastic unrecyclable and compromising recycling efforts.
When designing waste treatment or recycling procedures, the front end should be planned according to the needs at the back end, ie, a decision should be made whether material is to be composted or incinerated, or whether it can be a raw material for other products.
After that, sorting and recycling methods can be decided, which guide consumption and usage patterns, as well as production at the front end.
Recycling and economic benefits must be taken into account, so that the circular economy can truly be achieved. Otherwise, not only will it be impossible to turn garbage into gold, but it might even turn gold into garbage.
The key to the success of the circular economy is to establish a complete industrial ecosystem that connects upstream, midstream and downstream industries to achieve a balance between supply and demand. The economic side includes two factors — production cost and the market value of recycling.
The biggest blind spot is “imbalance.” If the supply and demand cannot be balanced, resources will not be truly circulated; if the profit and loss cannot be balanced, it will not be economically beneficial.
There is another potential problem: There might be unscrupulous operators that produce recycled products of poor quality, causing the public to gradually lack confidence in products using recycled materials.
Therefore, the circular economy has principles known as “3M”: the “material” should be fully recycled to create economic benefit (“money”), and environmental protection agencies must be the gatekeeper to ensure the law conforming to social justice (“moral”). Only by adhering to 3M can the problem of waste management be solved and the circular economy be put on track.
Chen Wen-ching is an executive director of the Formosa Association of Resource Recycling.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forward Forum in Taipei, former Singaporean minister for foreign affairs George Yeo (楊榮文) proposed a “Chinese commonwealth” as a potential framework for political integration between Taiwan and China. Yeo said the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait is unsustainable and that Taiwan should not be “a piece on the chessboard” in a geopolitical game between China and the US. Yeo’s remark is nothing but an ill-intentioned political maneuver that is made by all pro-China politicians in Singapore. Since when does a Southeast Asian nation have the right to stick its nose in where it is not wanted
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has released a plan to economically integrate China’s Fujian Province with Taiwan’s Kinmen County, outlining a cross-strait development project based on six major themes and 21 measures. This official document by the CCP is directed toward Taiwan’s three outlying island counties: Penghu County, Lienchiang County (Matsu) and Kinmen County. The plan sets out to construct a cohabiting sphere between Kinmen and the nearby Chinese city of Xiamen, as well as between Matsu and Fuzhou. It also aims to bring together Minnanese cultural areas including Taiwan’s Penghu and China’s cities of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou for further integrated
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) domestic problem is essentially economic in nature. Unlike other market economies, which might collapse if faced with the deep and dangerous economic problems China now faces, China is unlikely to collapse quickly. China is not a real market economy; it remains a state-dominated command economy. The state has so many tools to ease, defer or postpone a crisis. In the long run, China might not avoid a collapse after a long and devastating economic disaster, but in the short run, Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime might survive. Politically, there is no
During a recent visit to Taiwan, I encountered repeated questions about “America skepticism” among the body politic. The basic premise of the “America skepticism” theory is that Taiwan people should view the United States as an unreliable, self-interested actor who is using Taiwan for its own purposes. According to this theory, America will abandon Taiwan when its interests are advanced by doing so. At one level, such skepticism is a sign of a healthy, well-functioning democratic society that protects the right for vigorous political debate. Indeed, around the world, the people of Taiwan are far from alone in debating America’s reliability