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Taiwan rethinks raw material
This autumn, Taiwan hosted its first trade exhibition and conference dedicated to the circular economy. Charles Newman of Resource Magazine reported on the innovations that reflect this new focus on managing the flow of waste materials into new products.
Circular Economy Taiwan was officially opened by the country’s President, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, who highlighted the Taiwanese Government’s commitment to maximizing the use of waste resources. Addressing delegates at the opening, TAITRA Chairman James Huang noted the country ‘lacks a lot of the natural resources it needs, creating a need to embrace the circular economy’.
Taiwan’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has been driving forward circular solutions and activity, claiming its share of credit for a municipal solid waste recycling rate that now stands at over 52 percent.
Among the companies showcased by the EPA, UWin Nanotech’s patented techniques for efficiently recovering gold, silver, palladium and other valuable metals from printed circuit boards (PCBs) are rightly already attracting a lot of interest from companies in China, the US and Eastern Europe.
Also on show was a process developed by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute for completely recapturing and recycling all materials from end-of- life LCD displays through a procedure in many ways analogous to that used for recovering metals from PCBs, involving the use of chemicals to wash and concentrate the materials returning it for use in making further LCD displays with no loss in quality.
Inevitably, new approaches for managing the growing concern that surrounds the use of plastic were on display. Among them was the synthetic textile company Far Eastern New Century, which currently produces over two million tons of polyester each year.
Recognizing the need to transition to a more sustainable model, New Century has developed techniques for recycling waste polymers. The company’s new technique can help recycle polyester from all types of used textiles, including mixed streams, through a dissolving process using non-complex solvents. Dyes and other polymers are filtered out and the resulting polyester recycled back into clothing, such as the football jerseys used by half the teams in the 2018 World Cup.
Another innovation on show at the expo was SCafe’s use of waste coffee grounds to create fabrics for outdoor clothing. Using a patented process, coffee grounds are added to fabric yarn, which alters the shape of the filament.
Also among the highlights of plastic substitutes was a packaging substitute material developed by eTouch Innovation Company called Fiber Particulate Composite (FPC), which Gordon Yu, the company’s Chairman, was at pains to stress was also an alternative to the use of polylactic acid (the base chemical used in bioplastics).
Continuing the theme of using waste resources for sporting apparel, tire re-processor Enrestec displayed its industrial process for creating a raw material to be used in the manufacture of wetsuits. This carbon black, a fine powder, is used by Sheico, one of the world’s leading diving-suit manufacturers, as the company aims to reduce the environmental footprint of the wetsuits for brands such as Patagonia.
Another noteworthy application in Taipei was the innovative use of glass from material recovery facilities (MRFs). Once the glass has been separated and cleaned, it is combined with a carbon-based forming agent at high temperatures to produce a construction brick. The resulting brick, sold under the Anxin brand name, is one eighth of the weight of a conventional brick with a significant uplift in conventional insulation characteristics.
Source: Resource Magazine
Wayne Lin (waynelin@taitra.org.tw)
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