Paper is hailed as one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Two thousand years ago, Chinese inventor Cai Lun made the world’s first piece of paper using bamboo, bark, rags, and broken fish nets. In doing so, he not only opened a new page in human civilization, but also laid the circular economy foundation for papermaking. With continued advancements in machinery and a growing need for information and packaging following the industrial revolution, papermaking grew to become an important manufacturing industry where daily production is measured in tons. Today, global paper production tops 400 million tons a year, yet with raw materials still coming from plants and recycled wastes, the industry’s circular economic essence never faltered. As human impact continues to alter the environment, circular economy is now a global trend, and a cornerstone for policies in Taiwan and around the world. Modern paper manufacturing leverages its industrial volume to put recycling and reuse into practice, becoming the world’s leading circular economy green industry.
The development of the Taiwanese paper industry is closely tied to the evolution of Taiwan’s industrial sector. When it was first established in 1947, the Taiwan Paper Industry Association only had 20 members, with a combined annual production volume of a mere 12,000 metric tons. Today, the Association has more than 70 members covering a comprehensive and diverse range of products, from printing and writing paper, household paper, packaging paper, corrugated cardboard boxes, cardboard, to specialty paper, totaling more than 4 million metric tons in combined production volume every year. The changes in the operating environment over these past 70 years have accelerated the transformation and development of the Association’s members.
Apart from the cycle of raw material to product and back to raw material, Taiwan’s paper industry has also been successful in building a sustainable water cycle and energy cycle. Process water is recycled and reused in the plants, then processed into safe and standard-compliant effluent to cultivate vegetation and fish in wetlands or water bodies close to the plant, returning carbon back to land. The paper industry also minimizes energy use by utilizing co-generation technology, recycling heat energy during the production process, and striving to turn waste into energy that Taiwan lacks. In addition to providing green energy, Taiwan papermakers facilitate cross-industry reuse of energy-conversion residue, such as providing raw materials for concrete and cement. Among Taiwan’s manufacturing industries, the paper industry remains the oldest and most comprehensive model for recycling and reuse.
Breaking away from convention, the Association has staged the annual “Box Wars” creative event since 2016, promoting “proper recycling” and “sort at source” in the hope that these practices can take root and enhance recycling efficiency in Taiwan. The Association and its members collaborate with government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Industrial Development Bureau to actively initiate and encourage proper recycling and sorting to turn waste materials into a valuable resource. Coverage of the event on news and social media has driven up Taiwanese awareness of recycling and reuse, and a more positive image for the industry.
In the digital era we live in today, our business environment is ever changing. These changes also open up new opportunities. Environmental awareness and green consumption are now emerging as top consumer priorities; paper has the growing opportunity to replace difficult-to-break-down materials used in single-use products. Taiwan’s paper industry shall continue to play our green innovation role through operational stability, cooperation with other industries, investment in innovation, and better recycling and reuse. We hope we will not only be a relevant industry going forward, but a cornerstone contributor in building a sustainable and prosperous society in Taiwan and beyond.
Chairman of TPIA