Recyclable and Trash Disposal in Taipei

By greenteapanda

October 19, 2008

Category: Living

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In a lot of places, people are used to their trash and maybe recyclables being picked up. If there is not pickup for recyclables, there is usually at least a place where one can drop off items to be recycled.

Recyclables and trash disposal in Taipei is more involved. People used to put their trash on the streets, and it apparently smelled. Wild dogs would tear open people’s trashbags on the streets, making bigger messes. In order to get rid of this problem, the city government decided that trash should not be put out on the streets, ever.

To dispose of trash, you need to know when the garbage lorry will stop in your neighbourhood. It is in the evening, every night except Wednesday and Sunday. The time is fixed, but the lorries play sections of Beethoven’s Fifth. I find it very appropriate, because that piece is about death, and (because there is no more landfill space in Taipei) trash will go to its death in an incinerator once they lorry collects it.

In addition to taking trash, there is a bin for compostable wastes, a bin for plastic bags (which I keep for myself here since retailers charge money for those), a bin for paper, a bin for plastic bottles, etc. They even recycle styrofoam. This is a list of all the items they recycle. And another. Because they can recycle just about everything, I haven’t actually had to dispose of any trash yet.

In my research about trash, I finally figured out why the Asian recycling symbol (which is a square with arrows pointing into another centre square) is different. It is meant to resemble the Chinese character 回, which means “to return.” I never knew that while I was in Japan, but I know why now.

When I do have the need to get rid of the non recyclable trash, I will have to buy special bags. The bags have a special appearance, though they are not constructed in any special way. They are special because the cost of the bag covers the cost of collecting the garbage and incinerating it or burying it in a landfill.

Recycling items costs no money, because it is actually profitable for the people that take it away.

In my own case, the people were impressed that I was able to talk with them in Chinese. This person that wrote a Washington Post article about his experience with trash apparently could not, and apparently annoyed the sanitation workers.

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