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European and Asian Experts Discuss Future of Resource Circulation in International Conference

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On 29 May 2023, the EPA and the EU once again jointly organized the 2023 Resource Circulation International Conference at the Taipei International Convention Center, alongside the many events of the EU Innovation Week. With the objective to deepen the long-term cooperation between Taiwan and the EU, this is yet another collaboration between the EPA and the EU after the first one in 2018. Through the conference, both sides hoped to promote the alignment of Taiwan's resource circulation policies with international standards, match enterprises in the resource recycling industry that are in need of assistance, and learn about the latest international trends and technologies. The conference took place after the opening ceremony of the EU Innovation Week, which was attended by Premier Chien-Jen Chen, Deputy Director-General Maive Rute from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internet Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW), Minister Mei-Hua Wang from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), and the EPA Minister Tzi-Chin Chang.

During the opening ceremony, Deputy Director-General Maive Rute emphasized that, after not being held for several years, this year’s EU Innovation Week saw the participation of numerous European businesses, industry organizations, and research institutions, all ready to collaborate with the world. As there would be many discussions and network sessions, she hoped to "encounter the right partners" and explore innovative opportunities together, and further emphasized that ¨industry dialogues¨ via face-to-face communication would be the most important form of exchange, enabling substantive cooperation. Moreover, Maive Rute highlighted the importance of seeking new ways to ensure global sustainable economic development through circular economy practices and expressed the EU's eagerness to engage in discussions on relevant topics.

Premier Chien-Jen Chen pointed out that the total trade volume between Taiwan and the EU in 2022 reached a historic high. The EU is Taiwan's fourth-largest trading partner and the largest source of investment, with cooperating industries spanning across sectors such as semiconductors, automobiles, information and communication technology, and machinery. The premier especially thanked European companies for their investments in Taiwan’s offshore wind power and other industries. As Taiwan continues to carry out its Forward-Looking Infrastructure Development Program, the premier hoped that both Taiwan and the EU could establish a more robust supply chain under the common goal of facilitating net-zero emissions and digital transformation through its six core industries of the Program.

Minister Tzi-Chin Chang stated that Taiwan's waste recycling system has been in place since 1987, and its recycling rate ranks among the highest in the world. However, it is necessary to address the challenges of innovation hindered by subsidy standards. The EPA has already started encouraging high-value reuse through fee adjustments. In the future, there will be laws specifically governing resource recycling that will change people’s views on waste, mandating producers to maximize utilization of resources before resorting to waste disposal. This will require significant innovation and mutual learning with the EU on regulations and technologies to address the issue of insufficient competitiveness in the market of recycled materials. The ultimate goal is to enable substantial resource circulation.

The conference featured a keynote speech by Deputy Director-General Maive Rute on "Connecting Regulations and Commercial Applications for Sustainable Circularity in Europe." Invitees such as government representatives from Germany, Italy, Singapore, experts from a British national think tank and the Asian Development Bank, and representatives from outstanding industries in Taiwan also shared strategies and technologies related to resource circulation in hopes of creating a new future for resource circulation via observation and exchanges.

Resource Recycling Administration to promote zero waste and formulate resource circulation-specific laws

In 2022, Taiwan announced its 2050 net-zero transition, covering 12 key strategies. Strategy 8 “Waste Recycling and Zero Waste,” for which the EPA was assigned the responsibility, encompasses plans such as green design for waste reduction, reuse of resource and energy, efficient circulation networks, and innovative technologies and systems. Therefore, measures and actionable practices are to be formulated to minimize the use of primary raw materials and transform waste into materials, fuels, and fertilizers. To promote resource circulation and utilization, the EPA has also initiated legislative efforts to formulate laws specifically for resource circulation by combining the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法) and the Resource Recycling Act (資源回收再利用法). Instead of focusing on waste management like in the past, the new law will emphasize material lifecycle management and create an environment favoring resource circulation through expanding resource utilization, source management, and producer responsibility.

In recent years, the EU and various countries and regions have introduced action plans and initiatives relevant to resource circulation. The EPA will be upgraded to become the Ministry of Environment and, at the same time, establish the Resource Recycling Administration. This organizational restructuring will facilitate the achievement of the goals of resource circulation and carbon reduction via integrating the strategy of Resource Recycling and Zero Waste, the legislation of laws governing resource circulation, and other policy efforts. Through this international conference, Taiwan aimed to share its remarkable achievements in promoting resource circulation and join hands with other nations in advancing toward resource sustainability.

The international symposium this year centered around topics such as “Resource Circulation Policies,” “Plastic Resource Circulation,” “Ecological Design and Business Models for Sustainable Products,” and “Waste-to-Energy Technologies.” Among the international speakers, Singapore shared its experiences in creating a resource-efficient sustainable nation, Italy discussed chemical recycling of plastics, and the UK presented business models delinked from consumption of raw materials. Germany shared insights on digital passports for products, and the Asian Development Bank elaborated on waste-to-energy technologies. As for the Taiwan side, Chairman Yu-Cheng  Huang of Circulate Taiwan Foundation began with an introduction of resource circulation policies, followed by Far Eastern New Century Corporation, which shared insights on sustainable materials and circular economy, and SmallRig presented the vision of a zero-waste future. Later, Taiwan Design Research Institute discussed design of our green future, Dell Technologies shared its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy, Taisun Green Energy talked about transition to low-carbon through bioenergy, and finally, the Biomass Energy Technology Association of Taiwan presented Taiwan's waste-to-energy technologies and achievements.

Through the inspiring speeches and discussions by local and foreign speakers, the conference provided participants whether from industries, the government, academia or research communities with insights into innovative thinking and specific practices in resource circulation from various countries. It also fostered consensus between Taiwan and the international community on promoting resource circulation, further enhancing cooperation in this field. The EPA stated that, as achieving net-zero emissions and promoting resource circulation are international trends, it hoped that businesses and the public would actively participate and collaborate in innovative ways to establish a fully circular future that maximizes resource utilization and minimizes waste.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, May 2023

Ministry of Environment