Last month I had the pleasure to attend the first edition of Circular Economy Taiwan. The exhibition featured a total of 260 companies coming from over ten countries and presented not only solutions in the areas of circular economy, eco-tech, indoor air quality and smart water, but also in renewable energy and smart storage. In fact, a considerable part of the exhibition was dedicated to Energy Taiwan, a renewed and upgraded version of the previous PV Taiwan event.
During the opening ceremony, James Huang, Chairman of Taiwan External Trade Development Council highlighted that “circular economy and green energy are two key elements in Taiwan’s governmental plans, now and in the future”. On the same note, Terry Tsao, President of SEMI Taiwan explained the importance that exhibitions like Circular Economy and Energy Taiwan have for the sustainable development of Taiwan.
He said: “We want to be a comprehensive platform where different players can communicate and exchange ideas; where businesses can interact with governments and where the latest solutions in green energy and smart storage are developed.”
The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Mr Jong-Chin Shen, echoed these thoughts, saying the government of Taiwan aims to create an environment that promotes the development of green technologies and initiatives. He explained that the government is currently working with local companies to develop a national wind energy network and supporting the Taiwanese wind energy manufacturing industry. “We are providing funding to small companies and we are connecting them with international corporations to make them thrive,” he said.
Dr Ing-Wen Tsai, the President of Taiwan and the only woman to speak during the ceremony. As a young Italian, I found this quite refreshing and inspiring. She talked about her plans to make Taiwan an example of green energy and how it is already changing the Republic at its core. Together with the Executive Yuan, she signed a new plan, the 5+2 industrial innovation plan, which aims to stimulate innovation and employment in the manufacturing industry and bring more balanced development to all regions of Taiwan. This plan will be a guideline to drive Taiwan into the next era of sustainable development. She said: “There is no reason to think that the green energy sector is growing too slowly in Taiwan. We are developing fast. We have some of the world’s best wind farms, and we plan to reach 5.5 GW in offshore wind energy and hit 25% of renewable energy by 2025.” The President also talked about the government’s plan to develop a state-wide circular economy and make sure that all resources are used sustainably.
“Now is the best time to invest in Taiwan. Invest in Taiwan now,” said Dr Ing-Wen, as she concluded with an invite to all 17000 visitors.
During the Circular Economy: New Business Forum we had the opportunity to hear more about some of the companies that are adopting innovative business models in the industries of electronics, textiles, biofuels and in the area of food waste. Freke van Nimwegen, the co-founder of restaurant InStock, shared his insight. He was one of the 2016 Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur, and one of the three people behind the idea of this waste-free restaurant located in the Netherlands. From a pop-up restaurant in June 2014, InStock has now become an institution in the art of food rescue in many Dutch cities. It offers not only dishes made with 80% of the food that supermarkets and farmers would have thrown away, but they now also offer several other products made from food waste. There is the bier made with surplus potatoes and the granola made with the spent grain from the brewing process. A great real example of sustainability and circularity.
During the forum, Mr T.S. Wu, deputy chief sustainability officer at ASUS, shared with the audience ASUS’s top tips to reduce the environmental impact of a product. He explained that it all needs to start with a design that is made to last; second the materials have to be durable and sustainable, from an ecological and social point of view; next a chemical management plan must be put into place to ensure that no toxic substance is introduced in the environment; and lastly it comes down to energy efficiency: from the consumption to the energy sources.
In line with Mr Wu, Mrs Vivian Tai, Senior Manager at DELL, said how essential it is also to design packaging that is sustainable. DELL, for example, grows mushrooms to produce packaging materials that do not require paper or plastic. “For DELL, value is creating a circular economy,” Mrs Tai said. The company aims to have fully sustainable operations by 2020, by extending the internal regulations and practices on sustainability, throughout the entire supply chain, and among the communities and people working at and around DELL.
I’ll have more from Taipei soon, via our podcast, with the chats I had with a company using coffee in the textile industry, to a start-up using agriculture waste to produce countless biodegradable materials.