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Hazardous waste debate flares in Taiwan

Asia – As Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) prepares to change its definition of hazardous industrial waste, a group of lobbyists has urged the government not to exclude scrap metal. If electrical and electronics equipment doesn’t make the cut, they fear imports into Taiwan could soar.

The nation’s EPA is currently considering excluding no fewer than 12 types of scrap metal, ranging from circuit boards and wires to computers, telecom products and household electronic goods. It intends to classify them as ‘general industrial waste’. These are not banned from import into Taiwan, environmental interests have warned.

‘Don’t we have enough domestic industrial waste to worry about?’ asked Chen Man-li, president of the Homemakers United Foundation. She said Taiwan generated up to 1800 tonnes of domestic industrial waste was every year. Despite the 82% recycling rate cited by EPA, Chen maintained that toxic residues are left behind to pollute the environment. Until about a decade ago, for example, the banks of Erjen River were infested with dumped circuit boards and wiring.

‘Unsuitable for living’

‘The public is now worried about the safety of adulterated edible oil products, but the pollution from recycling these scrap metals may affect an even bigger portion of our living environment,’ Chen said. This concern is shared by Huang Huan-chang, director of Tainan Community University’s Research and Development Association, who recalled that the high levels of dioxins in the air and heavy metal contamination in the water and soil near the Erjen River rendered it ‘unsuitable for living’ back in the 1980s.

‘Taiwan is a small island that cannot afford to become a hazardous waste treatment centre for other countries,’ Taiwan Watch Institute director Herlin Hsieh added.

In response, EPA Department of Waste Management director Wu Tien-chi stressed that while the nation lacks resources, it is an electronics export-oriented economy. In order to ‘vertically integrate’ the industry from manufacturing to consumption to recycling, the EPA believes allowing imports of scrap metal will benefit the development of Taiwan’s recycling industry.

Furthermore, the proposed changes will force all recycling companies to report their treatment processes and dispose of remaining waste substances using registered facilities.

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Source: The Tapei Times

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