Taiwan is one of the most important suppliers of electrical and electronic products in the world; as such it is itself also an important consumer of those products. This means that the amount of electronic waste, e-waste, generated from information technology (IT) products, home electrical appliances and lighting, is increasing rapidly there.
Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, Wen-Tien Tsai of the Graduate Institute of Bioresources, at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, in Pingtung, Taiwan, explains how he has investigated the regulatory promotion of e-waste recycling in Taiwan. He found that although the annual quantity of e-waste recycling through the implementing agencies seemed to increase more than tenfold from 7,321 tons in 2001 to 74,421 tons in 2015, there is evidence that the recycling market in Taiwan has matured in recent years partly because of the country’s ageing population and slow economic growth. Tsai also highlights the case of fluorescent lighting tubes and how mercury can be successfully recovered from these at end-of-life.
He points out how the waste composition is still shifting as new products emerge in the realm of personalised medicine, electric vehicles, IT products, novel consumer electronics products, and an increased diversity of food products and home electrical appliances.
We must address these novel waste streams and find ways to recycle such goods, especially those that contain toxic materials, including mercury. Tsai adds that the improper management and disposal of waste or discarded items could lead to significant environmental harm and harm to human health. In addition, there is a need to retrieve from such goods rare elements that are of limited supply such as precious metals and mineral elements.
Tsai, W-T. (2019) ‘Current practice and policy for transforming e-waste into urban mining: case study in Taiwan‘, Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp.1-15.