New prod­ucts from plas­tic junk

Tai­wan has turned plas­tic junk into new prod­ucts.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE -

THE moun­tains of used plas­tic bot­tles at a re­cy­cling sta­tion in Taipei emit a faint smell of garbage dump, but soon they will be turned into wigs and clothes that peo­ple will wear, as well as blan­kets.

From fake hair to foot­ball jer­seys and build­ing bricks, Tai­wan is breath­ing new life into its mas­sive plas­tics waste, cre­at­ing a boom­ing new busi­ness at the same time as it aims to go green.

The is­land started re­cy­cling plas­tic more than a decade ago amid grow­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, and to­day it boasts about 73% re­cy­cling rates, ac­cord­ing to the cabi­net’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Last year, nearly 180,000 tonnes of used plas­tic were col­lected and turned into raw ma­te­ri­als worth NT$4.5bil (RM460mil), which cut down garbage dis­posal costs and car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, it said.

“Re­cy­cled plas­tics can be made into many prod­ucts such as gar­ments, flower pots, wigs and zip­pers,” said Ma Nien-ho, a spokesman for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­cy­cling fund man­age­ment board. “We are not only pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment but also mak­ing money.”

Tai­wan took pride in the so-called “eco­fab­ric” that was used by lo­cal com­pa­nies to make the jer­seys for nine teams com­pet­ing in the foot­ball World Cup in South Africa. Each jersey, made from eight plas­tic bot­tles melted and pro­cessed into polyester, is 13% lighter than tra­di­tional fab­ric and can ab­sorb and dis­perse sweat more quickly, ac­cord­ing to Tai­wan Tex­tile Re­search In­sti­tute.

“The pro­duc­tion process is also more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly as it takes less wa­ter and en­ergy to dye the shirts when us­ing coloured bot­tles,” said Alex Lo, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Su­per Tex­tile Cor­po­ra­tion, a maker of eco­fab­ric.

Tai­wan, a small is­land that con­sumes about 4.5 bil­lion plas­tic bot­tles an­nu­ally, is seen as hav­ing an ad­van­tage in man­u­fac­tur­ing eco­tex­tiles through lower trans­porta­tion and re­cy­cling costs.

Tzu Chi Foun­da­tion, one of the is­land’s largest char­ity groups, runs 4,500 re­cy­cling sta­tions across Tai­wan with the help of about 70,000 vol­un­teers who col­lected 12,000 tonnes of used bot­tles last year.

The foun­da­tion has dis­trib­uted more than 300,000 blan­kets made from plas­tic bot­tles since 2007 for re­lief uses at home and abroad, it said. Thou­sands of vol­un­teers pro­duce the blan­kets af­ter wash­ing and sort­ing plas­tic bot­tles at garbage yards around Tai­wan.

And per­haps in the near fu­ture houses built from re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles will mush­room across the is­land af­ter Eco Ark, the world’s first such build­ing, is un­veiled this month.

Eco Ark – a three-storey 24m high ex­hi­bi­tion hall due to de­but at the Taipei In­ter­na­tional Flo­ral Ex­po­si­tion, is built from 1.5 mil­lion re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles and cost 300 mil­lion Tai­wan dol­lars. “The bot­tles are pro­cessed to make bricks that can re­sist earth­quakes, wind and fire while pro­vid­ing the build­ing with nat­u­ral light­ing to save elec­tric­ity,” said its ar­chi­tect Arthur Huang. “The ‘polli-bricks’ are also less ex­pen­sive than con­ven­tional ma­te­ri­als like wood and glass so the con­struc­tion cost is much lower.”

Huang said his firm is cur­rently build­ing a lux­ury bou­tique ho­tel and sev­eral fac­to­ries and cor­po­rate build­ings with the bricks. “Just imag­ine if we can re­place all the steel roofs in the build­ings in Taipei with light trans­par­ent polli-bricks. That would make the city look more beau­ti­ful.” – AFP Re­laxnews 2010

New uses: A vol­un­teer dig­ging through a mound of re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles used to make blan­kets at the Tzu Chi Foun­da­tion fac­tory in Taipei. The is­land has found new uses for plas­tic waste.

The Eco

Ark build­ing in

Taipei is made with

plas­tic bot­tles to

raise in­ter­est in re­cy­cling.

A vol­un­teer sewing blan­kets made from re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles at the Tzu Chi Foun­da­tion fac­tory in Taipei. The blan­kets are shipped to dis­as­ter ar­eas, such as the earth­quake in Haiti and floods in Pak­istan.

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