Taipei Trash & Recycling: A short guide

Taiwan has become a global leader in recycling, with one of the highest recycling rates in the world!
The country manages to recycle more than 50% of it’s municipal waste and is thereby only a little bit behind the world’s leading nation for recycling, Germany, and much in front of the United states.
For people coming to Taiwan for the first time the garbage collection system might seem to be a bit tricky and difficult to grasp.
I will help you with this short guide on trash disposal in Taipei and a brief illustration of Taiwan’s garbage collection system. At the same time, I want to call upon all of you to produce as little trash as possible!
Many countries, including Taiwan, have implemented progressive plastic reduction policies in recent years, and many companies are voluntarily creating their own plastic reduction plans.Green News Taiwan reported the success of the implementation of plastic bans in the country, proofing that such measures can certainly reduce the use of plastic bags.
I have shared a few ways of how to reduce plastic and there will be more information on this blog. Stay tuned and join me to to reduce our ecological footprint!

First of all you have to know, that you can’t just use any kind of bag to dispose your trash in Taipei. You will need to buy specific trash bags, in different colors, depending on where you live. You can buy these bags in most convenient stores, such as 7-11. For Taipei City these bags are blue, if you live in New Taipei City they are pink. There are different sizes and prices for the designated garbage bags in Taipei City. These bags are only for general trash and their prices help to cover the costs of the waste disposal system, brilliantly participating citizens on public waste disposal and ideally encouraging people to produce less trash (read more about the The 4-in-1 Recycling Program).

After you have your colored trash bags for the general trash ready, you can think about where to collect your recycled good. I suggest you to already separate them in different containers at home. The recycle truck will take the items even if they aren’t separated, but they do appreciate it if you separate them.

The Regulated Recyclable Wastes in 33 Items of 13 Categories from https://recycle.epa.gov.tw/en/NAV04Content.htm

There are different categories, mainly it’s: general trash, clean plastic bags, paper, glass, clean styrofoam, cans, containers (aluminium or metal), small home appliances and organic waste (separated into (1) fruit & vegetable, (2) rice & bread).
For most materials the recycle truck accepts the raw material, as well as the processed material, such as plain paper and paper container.
Not all types of plastic are recyclable, for most plastic containers and products you can check through the recycling triangle and plastic code on the package to identify the type of plastic.

Can containers be recycled even if they have been soiled with food?

The cleaner your containers, the better for the recycling process. At municipal facilities items are sorted by type (paper, plastic, glass, etc.), before they get processed. Pollutants (e.g. oily food) or wrong materials (e.g. napkins in the recycling bin) in the system will at least cause an increase of recycling costs for the facilities. In the worst case the contaminated can cause rejection at the facilities, so that the material is sent to be burnt or to landfills.
Washing your items before the recycling might feel like a waste of water, but it helps a lot with the recycling process.  Items can be rinsed when you do your everyday dish washing, which takes no extra water and almost no time.

After you have all your clean items ready to get recycled, the next step will be the pick-up. Normally there are two trucks. One is regular trash, the other one for recycle and food waste.

First yellow truck for general trash and second truck for recyclables

Trash trucks move through Taipei on certain routes on a certain schedule. Here are the garbage collection routes and times for different Districts in Taipei City.
The weekly pick-up times are the same, but not every day has a pick-up. The trucks usually come on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but not on Wednesday and Sunday. Also there might be pick-ups of different category goods on different days.
The arrival of the trash car will be announced by the “Für Elise” melody, when you hear the sounds you have few minutes left to grab your stuff and run down to the truck. if you don’t want to rush to get your trash on the car before it leaves, stick to the scheduled times and be there before the truck arrives.
If you live in a big building, they might have their own service for that, so it might also be a good idea to check with your landlord. Generally I think it is a great idea to ask a neighbor when you meet them in the hallway or see them waiting for the truck on the street. You can get to know them as well as learn something new. Taking out the trash in Taiwan is kind of a community activity and has probably reinforced collective sanitation responsibility. It has also become a point for neighbors to meet each other.

What many people might not know is, that there are also fixed sites where you can go and bring your trash in case the trash cars schedule doesn’t fit yours. Here you find those appointed garbage collection and resource (including kitchen waste) recycling locations for Taipei City  and for New Taipei City.

Where does the trash go?

General trash goes to landfills or Incineration Plants (such as in Neihu or Muzha).
Recycling requires many complex processes and faces many challenges, often recycled plastic garbage ends up being incinerated despite local residents’ efforts.
A huge amount of global recycled material ends up being shipped to Asia, including Taiwan. But China, the world’s largest importer and recycler of scrap metals, plastic and paper, has decided it will no longer take what it calls “foreign garbage”, and is set to ban imports of 24 types of waste. This may force industrialized countries to recycle more of their own waste.

This all might sound very complicated and much of a hustle, but it actually really isn’t! Don’t be lazy and toss your trash into public trash cans or on the streets! Taiwan offers a nice recycling system, so please make use of it and separate your trash. It doesn’t take much of an effort and it’s good for the planet.

More information about trash disposal and recycling you can get from the Department of Environmental Protection, Taipei City Government.

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By Stefan Simon for Collective Green

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