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Suggestions for the Multi-Approach Waste Management Policy and Upgrading EfW Plants

In June 2017, the Executive Yuan announced the Multi-approach Waste Management Plan, which will be implemented over a span of 6 years (2017 to 22) with a total investment of around NT$15.4 billion from the Government. This Plan is expected to upgrade 11 EfW plants to extend their service life for at least 15 years, expand the incineration capacity by an additional 260,000 tons per year (approximately the processing capacity of an additional 900-ton EfW plant), provide a regionally-deployable capacity of 340,000 tons per year and, at the same time, improve the quality and open up a smooth channel for slag recycle products.

Apart from the upgrade and improvement of the EfW plants, the Multi-approach Waste Management Plan also promotes the kitchen-waste bioenergy. This approach aims to solve the problem of compost odor and utilization of resource-based products, addressing the issue of inefficient waste management caused by lacking waste treatment facilities at the local government level. Therefore, for counties/cities, as well as the outlying islands, that are considered to be under-equipped for proper waste management, the Plan is expected to help the local governments develop waste treatment facilities to effectively resolve the waste issues and reduce the cost for waste transportation.

As a main member of the EfW industry in Taiwan, ECOVE has not only had close cooperation with the government, business owners and communities, but also actively participated in the development of national and regional environmental policies and issues. With our practical experiences, ECOVE would also like to put forward some of our ideas:

Upgrading the Facilities and Efficiency of EfW plants

Waste incineration technology has been developed in Taiwan for more than 20 years. The last EfW plant was completed in 2008, which is now almost 10 years old. Technology has been developing in an amazing speed over the years, and EfW plants built in other countries in recent years have adopted systems with newer technologies that enable higher efficiency and performance. Therefore, there is an urgent need to upgrade the systems currently used in Taiwan. The planned upgrade is expected to not only prolong the use life of the EfW plants, but also bring the following benefits:
  • Improve efficiency of power generation through implementing advanced incineration technology.
  • Improve air pollution control efficiency and achieve compliance with the most recent international air emission standards (eg. EU).
  • Enhance the competitiveness of the local environmental engineering companies and increase their business opportunities in the global market through demonstrating the above applications and technologies.

Developing Local Technologies of Gasification

Compared with the traditional mechanical incineration technology, gasification technology is currently attracting more attention in the world. The main advantage of such technology is better efficiency in both combustion and pollution prevention. However, since such technology is not yet substantially used in waste treatment, the capacity is generally small and application is limited by the type of waste, it is still necessary to return to the fundamental issues in terms of choosing more appropriate technology. 

In addition, to address the inadequate capacity of waste processing facilities in some counties or on outlying islands, waste gasification may be implemented as a pilot project to initiate development of gasification technologies in Taiwan. If the results are good, it is expected to provide waste treatment capacity in-situ and, at the same time, help Taiwan develop related technologies.

Keeping Tabs on the Trend of Circular Economy to Expand Recycle and Reuse of Slag and Kitchen Waste

Recycle and reuse of slag and kitchen waste is now one of the hottest topics in the world and several technologies have been developed and matured. Slag is one of the best examples. Processed and tested slag that meets relevant quality standards can be used for road pavement or as a building material. Similarly, digest residues, which are by-products of kitchen waste after fermentation, can be use in agriculture for fertilization or irrigation.

Even though successful applications of relevant technologies have been reported in the world, legislation and administration in Taiwan are still lagging behind the pursuit for circular economy. For examples, slag is not mandatory for public construction usage, and products of fermented kitchen waste still cannot be used for fertilization or irrigation. In result, such end products are difficult to find channel for utilization. We suggest the government to formulate policies that promote recycle and reuse of such resources.

An Urgent Lesson in Life Extension of EfW Plants and Effectiveness of Upgrade

Taiwan has been highly regarded as a model of waste management and recycle in the world. Wall Street Journal reported on how Taiwan moved from a “garbage island”  into a world epitome of recycling in its feature story, Taiwan: The World’s Geniuses of Garbage Disposal. However, as we look back to the “garbage war” in early 2017, some Counties have faced a tough topic,  “where to put the garbage”. 

In 1990, the Central Government successively launched the “Taiwan Area Waste Recycle Plant Construction Plan” and “Public and Private Energy-from-Waste (EfW) Plant Construction Incentive Program”. By February 2008, when the EfW plant in Zhunan, Miaoli began operation, there were 24 EfW plants operating throughout Taiwan. The EfW plants processed 24,650 tons of waste per day and effectively solve the waste crisis in Taiwan.

Under strict supervision by the competent authority and stringent management of the operators, Taiwan went through more than a decade without being disturbed by waste related issues. However, the earlier EfW plants such as Muzha, Xindian and Shulin EfW plants are operating nearly 20 years and more and more EfW plants are facing their limit of service life. The efficiency of the EfW plant is expected to drop due to age; in consequence, their processing capacity will also drop. Under such circumstance, another wave of waste crisis is expected to engulf Taiwan again.

Because Taiwan is densely populated and space-limited, EfW plants are considered unwelcomed NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) facilities. Therefore, resistance is still expected for construction of new facilities. In Europe and Japan, several successful examples of EfW plant life extension have demonstrated the feasibility of extending the service of existing facilities. Therefore, several issues have emerged once EfW plants reach their limit of service life. Those issues include how to extend the service life and upgrade existing facilities, how to ensure the safety of the facilities during the extended service life, and how to improve the efficiency of pollution prevention, power generation and energy efficiency.