Saving Resources with a Circular Economy

Wikipedia defines a circular economy as a “regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing, and narrowing material and energy loops. This can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling.”

In line with global trends, the Taiwan government is actively promoting this concept, with emphasis on the recycling and reuse of resources so as to assure sustainable development of the economy and the integrity of the environment. A major goal is to cut the reliance of Taiwan’s economy on fossil fuels, as every percentage point of GDP growth currently still entails a similar rate of expansion in CO2 emissions.

While the government is still drafting the detailed circular-economy program, some major elements have been determined, notably in the fields of petrochemicals and biotech. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, for instance, has decided to establish a “special circular-economic zone” in Kaohsiung, aimed at recycling and reusing waste and by-products generated by local heavy industry, such as generating electricity from the waste heat and steam of the petrochemical production process. This project was conceived in the wake of the petrochemical pipeline explosion in Kaohsiung in mid-2014.

The state-run enterprises CPC Corp., China Steel, and Taipower are spearheading the circular-economy plan. Along with natural gas and oil refining, the circular economy will be one of the three major targets for CPC’s NT$200 billion investment plan for the next six years. One project to be included is the utilization of fuel gas, a by-product of oil refining, for the production of styrene. China Steel for its part will expand the use of furnace slag as materials for pavements, cement, armor blocks, artificial reefs, and other purposes.

Another project is to use methane, produced from pig manure, for power generation as part of the “Plan for the Revitalization and Development of the Pig-raising Industry” initiated by the Council of Agriculture and passed by the National Development Council on February 20 this year. The project aims to generate 100 million kilowatt-hours of power this year from the waste of one million pigs, with the number of animals to be expanded to 2.5 million by 2020.

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