Tainan aims for circular economy leadership

“Take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, Tainan City Government hosted on Dec. 4 the 2017 Tainan-ECCT Low Carbon City & Circular Economy Conference

TAINAN (ANN) – Most city officials understand they are accountable but few make the leap to being responsible. Responsibility is all about accountability, a key principle behind the development of a circular economy.

Looking beyond the current “take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, Tainan City Government hosted on Dec. 4 the 2017 Tainan-ECCT Low Carbon City & Circular Economy Conference (2017臺歐低碳城市及循環經濟國際論壇) with the aim of redefining products and services that design waste out, while minimizing negative impacts.

Recycling in Tainan is more than a slogan; but a carefully implemented policy,” said Deputy Mayor of Tainan Chang Chen-yuan (張政源). The southern city has reached a recycling rate of up to 52 percent without implementing a “pay-as-you-throw” policy for its trash bags.

Chang attributes such successful implementation to the growing level of environmental awareness among Tainan residents. He is already confident that the city will reach its target of a 55-percent recycling rate by next year. With the recent implementation of the Sigurec, an innovative collection infrastructure imported from Romania, Tainan is further poised to succeed in increasing its recycling rate.

At the same time, Tainan has launched an ambitious plan to turn food waste into fertilizers and biogas that has received the enthusiastic support of local residents and restaurants. “We have reached a recycling rate of 12 percent for kitchen waste in less than 3 years,” said Lee Hsien-Wei (李賢衞), deputy secretary-general of Tainan City Government.

Lin Chien-San (林健三), director general of the Environmental Protection Bureau of Tainan City Government, is also optimistic about the future and the development of practical applications for encouraging residents and corporations to further cut down waste.

In addition to promoting best practices, Lin stressed the importance of applying the right technologies to “retain value.” By reassessing where waste is most prevalent in the value chains, he stressed that companies can learn to “close the loops to get more from the resources and materials they use.”

To this extent, the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT, 歐洲在台商務協會) is at the forefront of advocating low carbon solutions across a broad range of industries, raising awareness about sustainable development and promoting the adoption of new practices.

The ECCT’s Low Carbon Initiative (LCI), in particular, has been endorsed and sponsored by a wide range of companies and institutions that want to share their best practices and experiences in Taiwan, including STMicroelectronics Taiwan, Atlas Copco, Grundfos and Robert Bosch Taiwan, to name just a few.

Speaking at the aforesaid conference, ECCT CEO Freddie Hoeglund remarked that European companies are developing innovative ways to reuse waste to create new products. He praised Tainan for being the first city to “adopt regulations of low-carbon initiatives” aimed at creating a circular economy.

Contrary to popular thinking in various companies, the circular economy isn’t the latest sustainability fad and shouldn’t be thought of as a recycling or green program. It requires top-down management and change across organizations, including reevaluating product design, business models and the supply chain.

Giuseppe IZZO, managing director of STMicroelectronics Taiwan, stressed the importance of building “new design for creating a circular economy and connecting smart cities”; while John Demers, general manager of Atlas Copco, emphasized the importance of “carbon negative technology that bring solutions for energy-saving and recycling.”

Also, Danny Yang (楊建新), general manager of Robert Bosch Taiwan, detailed various strategies to bring a new transportation momentum into the circular economy through “smart mobility networks”; whereas Dr. John Pien, general manager of Grundfos, unveiled various schemes to achieve energy and water savings.

We need to rethink the way we use products by including waste in the life cycle of products,” Ying-Ying Lai (賴瑩瑩), director general of the EPA’s Department of Waste Management. She praised President Tsai Ing-wen who pledged to “bring Taiwan into an age of circular economy, turning waste into renewable resources” in her address on May 20, 2016.

With a population of 23 million people, Taiwan imports 98 percent of its energy, as well as more than 80 percent of its minerals and 70 percent of its food. Accordingly, Lai stressed that Taiwan needs to develop a new “business model” that drives “sustainable production and consumption.”

Alice Kao (高錦雀), vice president of Everest Textile Co. Ltd., drew a comparison between food and waste to explain how a company can develop new products from waste and create a more sustainable production cycle. “Our objective remains to implement a circular economy with zero emissions by 2020,” she continued.

Guy Wittich, head of mission of The Netherlands Trade and Investment Office, spoke to abound in the same direction with various recycling strategies implemented by Dutch companies. Dutch actors in circular economy, ranging from some multinational corporations, such as Philips, to SMEs and government authorities, are working together to implement a “4-step approach for the development of a circular economy.”

Starting with an analysis, focus selection, circular improvements and improvements, he gave various examples on how the city of Amsterdam has made a major step in the transition to become one of the world’s first circular cities. Noting that the shift is already in motion, he invited other cities to follow Tainan’s leadership in creating a circular economy in Taiwan.