Recycling: A lesson from Taiwan

Back in the days Taiwan used to be called the Garbage Island, but today is internationally praised for achieving the highest recycling rate, 55% in 2015. In 2015 the island generated 26.2 millions tons of total waste. Moreover, trash per capita production has fallen from 1.143Kg in 1998 down to 0.387Kg in 2013. The great results are consequences of environmental problems in the asian island.

Taiwan, a relatively small island with a population of nearly 24 millions people, used to experience stark air pollution problems and its landfills capacity almost reached their fully capacity. To tackle these issues the Taiwan EPA, established in 1987, decided to start a revolution in the garbage disposal management.

The system is very simple: first of all, there is no specify day for garbage collection, instead, there are several trash-truck pick-ups during the week. In the capital, Taipei,  there are more than 4,000 pickup spots, five nights a week, with mobile apps that alert users to nearby truck stops. People just simply run on the streets and pull their trash bags into the truck. Secondly, the government requests citizens to divide the trash into three containers : general refuse, which mostly gets incinerated, recyclables and kitchen waste. Additionally, you can only use government-certified blue plastic bags, which cost from as little as $0.03 up to $7 for 5 large bags; their revenue works as financial support for the governtive plan.

What happens if you do not respect the law? A $184 fine! The EPA also provides hidden video cameras to catch violators offering up to half of the value of any fines collected.


This plan makes possible for cities such as Taipei and New Taipei, to recycle up to 60% of daily byproducts.

There are also a lot of individual initiatives in the island, such as the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist nongovernmental organization, operating more than 4,500 recycling stations around the island.

Taiwan is also very specialised in electronic waste collection; “Trash is valuable [in Taiwan] – the byproduct of a world now dependent on technology,” said The New York Times. “Taiwan, which is home to a host of technology companies like Asus, Acer and HTC, produces more electronics per capita than any other country.” Therefore, many of Taiwan’s recycling companies specialize in separating precious metals from consumer electronics. A company claimed that it could extract 99.99% pure gold from discarded electronic equipment.

Surely is that Taiwan was on the edge of collapsing under its own garbage, and thank to political and social willingness it is toady a model for waste management to be exported worldwide.

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