Known as one of the Four Great Inventions of Ancient China, papermaking is a pivotal innovation that has driven the proliferation of human culture. As recorded in the “Tiangong Kaiwu” (The Exploitation of the Works of Nature), Cai Lun (50AD-121AD) of the Han dynasty invented paper using natural residue materials and a process that involved “cutting and soaking bamboo”, “boiling bamboo”, “pouring slurry onto screen”, and “drying on heated wall.” This process laid the foundations of the papermaking industry’s core philosophy of resource recycling and reuse.
After the industrial revolution developed economies of scale, the paper industry continued to target resource recycling through three major circular systems — the product cycle, energy cycle, and water cycle — to maximize resource utilization and lessen environmental impact.
Each year, Taiwan produces 4.25 million metric tons of paper, of which more than three-quarters is paperboard. Paperboard includes corrugated fiberboard (liner board, corrugated sheet), white cardboard and gray cardboard, as well as eco-friendly tissue paper, recycled printing and writing paper, joss paper and so forth, all of which are made from recycled paper. Taiwan collected 2.72 million metric tons of recycled paper in 2019, equal to five times the annual volume processed by the Muzha Refuse Incineration Plant. Apart from lowering pulp usage, resource recycling also reduces the amount of refuse incineration and the resulting carbon emissions.
Water is one of the most important resources of the paper industry. Through water resource management, TPIA member plants strive to reduce wastewater and improve internal recovery efficiency by putting the concepts of recycling, recovery and reuse into practice. Currently, the water usage of industrial paper units can be maintained at 6-10 metric tons.
All paper mills are equipped with wastewater management systems, which must ensure that water quality conforms with legal effluent standards or even act as a stable water source for streams, wetlands and other natural bodies of water, helping to preserve natural ecosystems, cultivate biodiversity, and sequester carbon to slow the greenhouse effect.
The paper industry employs cogeneration systems and biomass boilers to create renewable energy using residue from the pulp-making process, such as lignin, tire scraps, sludge and refuse-derived fuel. In addition, biogas power generation systems are also used to maximize the benefits of waste fuelization and resourcization.