Taiwan mandates mobile phone, optical disc recycling

Starting next Monday, people in Taiwan who fail to recycle mobile phones or optical discs, including CDs and DVDs, may face fines of up to NT$6,000 (US$184), an official at the island's Environmental Protection Administration said.

Taiwan has long encouraged its citizens to recycle, in part due to limited available space for landfill: the island is home to 23 million people, with a population density of 1,610 per square mile. A mountain range that runs from north to south through the middle of the island further limits available space.

The idea to put a price tag on violators of the recycling system came in part due to slim returns of the objects during a trial run in three major cities in Taiwan.

"We ran trials in some cities, but not many discs or phones were turned in. That may be because people are reluctant to throw out mobile phones, and because optical discs last a long time, but we're trying out this new approach to see what happens," said an official, surnamed Wei, at the EPA.

Enforcing such a policy is easier in Taiwan than other places. Unlike some other countries, Taiwan has no huge trash bins for residents to dispose of their garbage. Instead, garbage and recycling trucks make stops in every neighborhood at specified times each day so residents can throw out their trash. The trucks even play music to let people know they've arrived, much like ice-cream trucks in the U.S. used to do.

The drivers and attendants of the trucks usually help residents determine which kinds of glass, plastics and other materials are recyclable, and are also on guard to watch for recyclables among the garbage people toss into the trucks.

The minimum fine for violating the new code has been set at NT$1,200.

At least one university in Taiwan is also researching how to profit from recycling optical discs by breaking them down into their raw materials, Wei said.

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