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Lecture-Discussion on “Plastic Waste Management in Taiwan”

C3S Event Report No: 015/2019

The Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S) organized a Lecture-Discussion on July 25th, 2019 on the theme ‘Plastic Waste Management in Taiwan’. The event which was held at C3S, was led by Dr. Alagu Perumal, Associate Professor – International Business, Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Chennai, Member C3S; Ms. Raakhee Suryaprakash, Founder, Sunshine Millennium, Associate Member C3S chaired the event.

Cmde. R. S. Vasan IN (Retd.), Director C3S welcomed the gathering and initiated the discussion.

The lecture was based on first-hand accounts from Dr. Alagu Perumal, who had lived in Taiwan and has worked consistently towards the progress of Plastic Waste Management. While mentioning the dangers of plastic, the speaker took notice of the cycle through which it becomes much more harmful for the environment i.e. the decaying of plastic into chemicals that further pollute the soil, air, water making our surroundings unsuitable for living. The speaker shared with us his personal surveys on Taiwanese society and the manner in which people of Taiwan have come together to address the menace created by mismanagement of plastics. Taiwanese people consider the activity of segregation of waste as personal responsibility marked by their consciousness. Especially in Taipei, due to the high cost of covers, people have reduced the amount of waste they generate in order to avoid high expenditure.

While mentioning the people to people efforts in plastic waste management, Dr. Perumal described the role of NGOs such as Tzu Chi Foundation, and it’s part in making the segregation of plastic, a calming therapy. It was founded by the Buddhist Master Cheng Yen in 1966 in Hualien. The foundation recruits volunteers who are ready to work for the cause in order to create a much better and liveable environment for their future generations, further giving elderly people a meaningful life to do something for the society. Tzu Chi has 6000 recycling points and 350 stations all across the country. The foundation also plays a major role in disaster management by utilizing plastic waste in order to create artifacts that could assist the volunteers in performing such work. The year 2020 will be the 30th year of Tzu Chi volunteering and Dr. Perumal aims to write a book on those who have already and are ready to work for the cause as a tribute to them.

The speaker believes the role of entrepreneurs in plastic waste management to be very necessary as they can create value out of the trash in return making them prone to benefits. A perfect example is Da Ai Technologies which has endeavored to process a green economy by making vendors go green. The speaker proclaimed it to be a company with a soul. Da Ai puts tremendous efforts to convert the trash into various products which could be useful to people in day to day life.

The Taiwanese government involves itself staunchly in segregating recyclable waste and moving it to auctions. Incinerating 97% of trash and using it for construction purposes has become regular in Taiwanese society. Though easy, this is not the most efficient way to get rid of plastics. The process of incineration also has detrimental effects on the people living in areas nearby. On the topic of incineration, Singapore has been successful in its implementation and has interestingly built an island bringing plastic waste management closer to bio-environment.

Another solution to plastic is the process of pyrolysis which could provide an alternative to fossil fuels and in return reduce the dependency of people on it. Other than oil, production of mass products like tiles and bricks and houses made of plastic using discarded garments have become a major feature both for its design and its usage (resettlement of refugees).

Although the policy of building houses and producing oil is a panacea to work on, the speaker highlights his hope to find various other eco-friendly alternatives to plastic litter.  At the political front, Dr. Perumal hopes the advent of environmentalists to power in many countries could be the impetus for change and plastic waste management. Once India is able to find Taiwanese investors willing to invest in such technology, it will surpass other countries in plastic waste management.

Dr. Perumal will soon undertake a final study in August 2019 which will include a comparative analysis of children from two different cities in Taiwan, mainly Taipei and Hualien. His effort to address the plastic waste management and enlighten others about the harmful effects of plastic has been appreciated in conferences he has presented his study in.  Finally, the speaker concluded, ‘The problem is not with plastic but with people’.

The event was concluded with an interactive session, followed by a vote of thanks by Ms. Raakhee Suryaprakash.

(Compiled by Prashant Rastogi, M.A. Political Science, University of Hyderabad; Research Officer, C3S).

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