With the FIFA World Cup in Brazil capturing media attention around the globe, French newspaper Le Figaro ran a column by Anthony Bleux on Thursday saying “Taiwan has [already] won its world cup.”
The cause for the claim? Taiwan’s pioneering venture into breaking down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and successfully recycling plastic into textiles put the words “Made in Taiwan” on the clothing of 10 national teams participating in the World Cup, the report said.
The material is more comfortable and sweat-absorbent than cotton, and it is made from an abundant resource in Taiwan, which consumes 4.5 billion plastic bottles a year, the report said.
The report added that using such materials to make clothing reduces energy usage by 30 percent.
The coloring of the material depends on the color of the bottles recycled in the process, the report said.
According to the report, when most of the world moved its factories to China in search of lower costs, Taiwanese textile manufacturers — such as Ecomax Textile, Eclat Textile, Singtex Industrial and Super Textile Corp — had to become innovative to boost their competitive edge, spurring the textile industry to launch decade-long research into breaking down PET in 1996.
Despite claims that PET bottles were not dissoluble and would not decompose for up to 400 years, the industry is now capable of making one complete soccer uniform out of materials recycled from 18 plastic bottles, the report said.
Thirteen million bottles, which could fill 29 soccer fields, were used to supply the material for clothing 10 national teams competing in the World Cup, the report said.
Nike first partnered with Taiwan on using the material four years ago in the South African FIFA World Cup and made more than NT$2 billion (US$67 million) in profit, the report said.
According to FIFA estimates, the Taiwanese textile industry is the primary beneficiary of a US$40 billion market for PET recycled clothing, enjoying a 70 market share, the report said.
The recycled PET material can be used not only in textiles, but also in other industries, the report said.
At the 2011 International Flora Expo hosted in Taipei, Taiwanese designer Arthur Huang (黃謙智) built a 24m tall building, the Eco Ark, using only hexagonal plastic blocks made from 1.5 million plastic bottles.
The design was said to be resistant to typhoons and earthquakes, both of which are natural regular occurrences in the region, the report said.
The report concluded that Taiwan had shown itself to be an exceptional player and at the head of the “green innovative technology” game.
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