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Enhancing and Utilizing the Recycling Fund to Its Full Effect

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Taiwan’s Four-In-One recycling system has been in place for years and always been well received. The current recycling policies focus on perfecting the management of the recycling and disposal industry, audits, and certification, as well as facilitating agencies and organizations to recycle. In the future, the EPA will keep promoting recycling and working on rebranding so that recyclers can become communities’ green partners and more active in striving for thorough garbage sorting and zero waste. It is hoped that the vision of a circular society may ultimately be realized.

In recent years Taiwan has been highly praised in the international community for its systemized recycling policies adopted in waste disposal. Previously, the focus was mostly on incineration and landfills at the end of the disposal process. Now it has moved toward source reduction and recycling. Ever since the Recycling Fund Management Board (RFMB) combined community residents, recyclers, local governments’ cleaning crews, and the Recycling Fund as participants jointly executing recycling, a positive recycling mechanism has been established. The current recycling policies cover four major areas:

The following are the focuses and results of relevant recycling policies:

(1) Enhancing recycling

1. Enhancing management and assistance for responsible enterprises

(1) Shortening registration and payment processes

Enterprises that are late with a large amount of overdue fees or habitually late in payments are the EPA’s priority target to obtain what is owed. The overdue amount considered as large is now lowered from NT$300,000 to NT$100,000, and the urging period is shortened from 3 months to one month, all in hopes of speeding up the collection of overdue fees.

(2) Upholding the integrity of fee payments for responsible enterprises

Between January 2021 and February 2022, 2,814 enterprises were audited on their operational capacities and compulsory fees, which led to the discovery of unpaid recycling and disposal fees of NT$147,777,000.

(3) Designing mandatory QR codes for paper utensil manufacturers

To stop evasion of registering the operating volume of paper utensils and paying the recycling and disposal fees, the EPA has been promoting affixing QR codes on paper utensils to show their manufacturers to help identify articles of responsibility. On 10 December 2021, draft revisions in Articles 4-1 and 18 of the Responsible Enterprise Regulated Recyclable Waste Management Regulations (應回收廢棄物責任業者管理辦法) were preannounced. A meeting was convened about the revisions on 24 February 2022.

2. Strengthening recycling and disposal channels

(1) Replacing old recycling vehicles

A contract has been in place to jointly purchase recycling vehicles, details of which include replacing 118 old vehicles with new ones in 2021 and building a recycling vehicle with innovative design in the same year. The EPA collaborated with the cleaning crew in Chonghe, New Taipei City, to put this vehicle in operation for a month. The trial showed that it helped increase garbage sorting efficiency and lessened crew members’ workload. In 2022, recycling vehicles that have been in operation for 16 years or more are the first for replacement, generating positive results with greater convenience in recycling for the public.

(2) Ensuring implementation of recycling at the local level

The EPA promotes recycling by integrating community residents, recyclers, local cleaning crews, and the Recycling Fund. In 2021, a recycling rate of 58.86% was achieved, surpassing the set goal of 54%.

(3) Optimizing construction of recycling plants and related facilities

Some subsidies can be applied for the construction and optimization of storage sites and sorting plants. A total of 81 applications were filed between January 2020 and February 2022, 50 of which had experts and scholars evaluate their construction design. In the end, NT$546.32 million were appropriated to subsidize 32 projects, which will improve the facilities of storage sites with a total capacity of 16.8 metric tons. Over 4,300 cleaning crew members will enjoy better working environments, and storage sites for recycling can benefit from enhanced operational efficiency and better public image.

(4) Promoting recycling in communities and apartment complexes

To strengthen the Four-In-One Recycling Policies and create diverse recycling channels, the EPA began facilitating recycling in communities and apartment complexes in July 2021. By February 2022, a total of 150 recycling stations have been set up for demonstration across 1,620 communities and apartment complexes, putting compulsory sorting into practice and raising recycling results.

3. Care for individual recyclers

(1) The deadline to apply for a maximum subsidy of NT$5,000 per person for individual recyclers is extended to 31 December 2022 to soften the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(2) Micro-insurance

To prevent disadvantaged individual recyclers from falling into financial hardship after an accident, the EPA subsidizes individual recyclers, who qualify for micro-insurance, up to NT$500/year for the premium of basic personal injury insurance with a maximum coverage of NT$300,000.

(3) Providing clean-up services to individual recyclers

There are teams in place that visit individual recyclers to help clean up and sanitize work environments and also provide recycling opportunities. The aim is to improve the image of these recyclers by cleaning up dirty environments caused by hoarded recyclables.

(4) In 2021, the EPA assisted 22,012 individual recyclers that had recycled 11,567 metric tons of recyclables, a 5.1% increase for the number of recyclers and a 27.1% increase for the amount recycled as compared to 2020.Additionally, in January 2022, the EPA assisted 1,763 people who had recycled 955 metric tons of recyclables.

4. Increasing recycling volume

(1) Setting an action plan and organizing events to promote cellphone recycling

An action plan was formulated in April 2021 to promote the recycling of waste cellphones. The top ten cellphone brands, as well as all stores of the five major telecommunication companies, were invited to participate in helping set up recycling goals, provide incentives, assist in deleting personal data on the devices, take in waste or old cellphones, and track the recycled phones in the disposal stream. In October, which the EPA designated a recycling month, prize draws were conducted to encourage the recycling of cellphones. As many as 6,608 recycling stands were set up and took in 42,000 waste cellphones.

(2) Promoting recycling of batteries

A. Raising subsidization rates for recycling lithium batteries

Secondary lithium cells include lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP) batteries, ternary polymer lithium batteries, and other secondary lithium batteries. Subsidization rates have increased for the first two categories. All these adjustments have been in effect since 1 July 2021 to increase recycling incentives.

B. Outfitting additional battery-recycling containers on recycling vehicles

A total of 3,481 recycling vehicles were equipped with such containers in 2021.

C. A campaign to promote the recycling of waste cells was held from 8-21 September 2021 with additional rewards. A total of 4,476 metric tons of batteries were recycled in 2021, 403 metric tons (9.9%) more than the recycled amount in 2020.

(3) Adjusting subsidization rates for lighting sources to maintain the recycling system

Subsidization rates have been raised for recycling conventional and LED lighting sources, effective 1 July 2021, so as to maintain the overall lighting source disposal capacity and ensure the smooth operation of disposal channels. The average monthly capacity of recycling and disposing of lighting sources was 36 metric tons between January and June 2021 and grew to approximately 70 metric tons after July, an increase of 94%.

(4) Facilitating recycling of old clothes

The EPA endeavors to push recycling and reuse of old clothing items to extend their lifecycles. The Guide for the Public to Recycle Used Clothing was announced on 8 November 2021 and dispensed to local environmental bureaus for promotion. On 26 January 2022, the EPA put out a news release on its Facebook page about the Guide and instructions regarding recycling old clothing.

On 30 December 2021, the Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI) was approved for subsidies to implement its project on the development and certification of quantitative testing technology and operation models for waste textiles. Under the project, the TTRI develops technologies that automatically screen old clothing materials as well as automatic sorting equipment. It also conducts R&D on end disposal technology, all to facilitate circulation of old clothes and increase the reuse rate.

5. Promoting the Marine Debris Recycled Product Label (MDRPL)

(1) Assisting enterprises in applying for MDRPL

Since the Operating Guidelines for the Promotion of the Marine Debris Recycled Product Label (海洋廢棄物循環產品標章推動作業要點) was announced on 9 April 2021, the EPA has been actively helping enterprises gain certification and handling applications for the label.

(2) Organizing events to grant labels and demonstrate program results

A ceremony was held on 27 December 2021 to certify four enterprises with the Marine Debris Recycled Product Label on their 13 products. The transformation from marine wastes to material-grade plastic pellets and regular consumer products for daily use is a significant journey and a great example in environmental education. It plays a significant role in drawing attention to relevant industries.

(2) Caring for cleaning crews and optimizing work environments

1. Following up on the president’s directive to ensure occupational safety for cleaning crew members, the EPA announced a specific set of guidelines on 4 June 2020, involving a committee to promote occupational safety and sanitation for the nation’s cleaning crews. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Institute of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health (both under the Minister of Labor), local environmental bureaus, and representatives from cleaning labor associations were invited to serve as committee members. Since 27 October 2020, a quarterly meeting has been held to discuss issues on enhancing occupational safety and sanitation for cleaning crew members.

2. A program has been carried out since 2021 to improve local environmental bureaus’ inadequate occupational safety and sanitation management by providing needed help. Results include organizing 74 seminars on relevant issues and training 141 supervisors and management staff, which has led to all cleaning crews becoming more attentive to safety on the job. The EPA also conducted 25 onsite visits to provide needed assistance, with occupational safety experts coming along to help crew members with what can be improved. The program will continue in 2022 to ensure that local environmental authorities properly abide by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (職業安全衛生法).

Future Prospects

Besides the smooth operation of the Recycling Fund and enhancement of recycling efficiency, future tasks will strengthen the management of enterprises responsible for recyclable wastes and source control. For recycling and disposal, the EPA will improve recycling enterprise management, audits, and certification, as well as expand recycling within agencies and organizations. As for the application of recyclables in construction, there will be trials on the reuse of waste glass and tires on asphalt road construction projects to display reutilization technologies and their benefits. Moreover, one of the areas the RFMB will focus on is the system in which vehicle owners are required to take their waste vehicles to legal recycling enterprises for recycling before terminating the vehicle registrations at the local Motor Vehicle Offices. This measure will effectively lower environmental and safety problems.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, June 2022

Ministry of Environment