Taking Up a Collection – Recycling in New Taipei City
Taiwan has gained a well deserved reputation as a recycling king. New Taipei City is one place where the crown sits comfortably.
In New Taipei City there are over 300 recycling collection stations, and according to government officials active community participation is the key.
To see how this works, just take a look at Limen Village in the city's Hsichih district. This was one of the first collection stations participating in a city government program that got its start in 2011.
On a drizzly March morning, a line forms outside the local community center which once a week serves as the collection point for a wide range of recyclables. Local residents, umbrellas in hand or wearing ponchos, push dollies and shopping carts filled with cast-off appliances, bundles of cardboard and bags of glass or plastic bottles. They wait patiently to have their recyclables weighed and counted, with the tally entered into an account in a clunky desktop computer.
“When the weather is better people might stand in line for two hours,” says Fu Lingyu ( 傅玲玉), a former village chief who is still active in community affairs and is an enthusiastic supporter of the recycling initiative.
By bringing in items for recycling, residents earn points which entitle them to gifts of detergent, plastic garbage bags, LED light bulbs or hand lotion. These are small tokens designed to encourage participation in the recycling program known, perhaps a bit grandly, as the city's “Golden Recycling” project.
“Sometimes people stand in line for credits worth NT$6 (about US$0.20)," she says, adding that the credits alone don't explain the community's enthusiasm for the recycling program. "They see it as a responsibility."
In Taiwan, this sense of responsibility is cultivated early on - students learn about the need for recycling in primary school.
The community also gets some direct financial benefits from the Golden Recycling program. The city's Environmental Protection Department returns 70% of the income from recycling to the community. The department keeps the remainder to cover some of the costs of the program.
At Limen Village some of the income went to help those affected by a devastating earthquake in Tainan in southern Taiwan last year.
All of these factors make Golden Recycling a popular program. There now are more than 1,000 households with recycling accounts at the community center in Limen Village. Moreover, the program is a source of pride for the community. The walls of the Limen community center are covered with photographs of local residents receiving commendations for their contributions to the recycling campaign. Naturally, the awards are printed on recycled paper.
Word of the Limen Village success story seems to be getting around. A logbook shows dozens of groups from mainland China have stopped by to discover the “secret sauce” in getting active community participation in a government-backed program. Some of those visitors came from as far away as the remote Qinghai region.
A little closer to home, the morning drizzle has run its course and the line of local residents has disappeared. A truck picks up the last of the day's recycling load before driving off on its rounds. But the recycling truck will be back again soon – and the residents of Limen Village seem to be eager to greet it once again.