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A day in the life of Taiwanese Rubbish

My sister spent most of this year living in a small village in Taiwan. I had no idea that rubbish in Taiwan is so progressive!

I thought that the Australian method of waste disposal – with 1 bin for glass, 1 bin for plastic, 1 bin for paper and 1 bin for regular waste was pretty advanced. The Taiwanese method is even better!

One day I was chatting with her on the phone when suddenly she said “I hear the music! I have to go”

* click beep beep beep *

Music? To say I was perplexed would be an understatement.

Turns out that all Taiwanese residents don’t have those external bins where you leave your rubbish to be collected. Instead, every week, the rubbish truck makes its way down the street playing Fur Elise, and all residents must be outside with their rubbish to throw onto the truck.

Talk about incentive to minimize the amount of waste one has! It’s become almost a symbol of national pride to show just how little waste one produces!

Recycling is super efficient in Taiwan, with having to separate out anything vaguely recyclable from anything vaguely biodegradable (like kitchen slop). And, most importantly you get charged for what you throw..

Wow. How great would that be in Malaysia. Can you imagine litter free streets? What bliss..

Some things that are illegal in Taiwan (that I believe should be illegalized here too) : takeaway food containers, especially those Styrofoam monstrosities, single use plastic bags, disposable eating utensils.

Seriously. One doesn’t need that shit. You know you are going to be using a takeaway container every day if you usually buy lunch out – how much forward planning does it take to bring a reusable container with you? Or at least a small reusable bag to carry things the 5 minutes back to the office?

It’s just pure laziness on our parts.

And the really ironic thing? Taiwan, like Malaysia is a huge participant of the plastics manufacturing industry – making disposable items. However, because Taiwan is an island nation, space is scarce, so there’s always the problem of what to do with all that rubbish.

So in 2003 they banned disposable items which make up the bulk of rubbish waste. Businesses that did not follow the ban were strictly fined. Waste is way down 5 years later and rubbish incinerators actually do not have enough stuff to burn to run at full capacity like they used to.

Officials took the hard line, ignoring requests and pressure from the Plastic Industry to delay the ban

or promote recycling efforts instead (let’s be realistic, pushing citizens to recycle solely never does the trick – because people are just inherently lazy on an individual basis until it becomes mandatory to change a habit, most will just not do so).

Wonder when Malaysian officials will take the same hard line and look to protect Malaysia’s long term future as a country and to protect the long term health of Malaysian citizens. Not banning disposable utensils because of the local plastics industry or short term protests from some citizens is just short term thinking. We’re all going to suffer from such careless consumption of our limited resources.

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