Promoting Inter-district Cooperation on Refuse Treatment

To find refuse disposal solutions for remote areas or counties with a major part of land deemed ecologically important, the EPA has been actively promoting inter-district cooperation on refuse disposal, and has been assisting in the creation of models for inter-district transfers of refuse for treatment and disposal. With the guidance of the EPA, six city and county governments have so far agreed to participate in the inter-district cooperation scheme. 

Currently there are 24 large-scale municipal waste incinerators operating in Taiwan, collectively incinerating approximately 6.5 million tonnes of household refuse and general industrial waste each year. These facilities are meant to solve waste disposal problems for the refuse generated by citizens every day, as well as to make the best use of each incineration plant’s excess capacity by treating general industrial waste. In 2012, the 24 incinerators generated 3.06 billion kW hours of electricity, showing that incinerators are not only helping to solve the nation’s waste treatment problems but are also providing a safe, steady and reliable alternative energy source. 

Over 50% of the land in Nantou County, Hualien County and Hsinchu County is mountainous and designated as important watersheds and ecologically sensitive areas. The construction of incinerators in these jurisdictions runs up against the practical difficulties of procuring land and citizen protests. Other factors requiring consideration include the goal of shortening transport routes and the requirement that each incinerator must maintain a constant operating rate and be able to treat waste on a long-term basis. After evaluating these factors, it was decided that the construction of large-scale incinerators in Nantou, Hualien and Hsinchu counties could be suspended. The former practice of landfill was discontinued in 2007 except on outlying islands and remote areas, a step that had a great impact on counties or municipalities that do not have an incineration plant. In anticipation of repercussions, by the end of 2006 the EPA began promoting inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment to contract waste treatment between jurisdictions. This measure provided assistance to these three counties in order to ensure that waste generated within their jurisdictions could be transferred to other counties or municipalities that already have incineration plants.

The three outlying islands of Kinmen, Penghu and Lianjiang began to sequentially enter similar inter-district cooperation schemes in 2008. The EPA provided assistance to ensure that waste generated on remote islands and island counties would be transported to the main island of Taiwan for incineration.

In order to overcome bottlenecks in district refuse treatment and ensure a steady supply of waste for incineration plants through inter-district cooperation, the central government has developed a standard operating procedure for contracting inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment. The central government serves as a witness to the signing of agreements between local governments to ensure finalization of the contracts. Executive resources are thus shared and fully utilized to broaden the services of environmental protection facilities over a wider region of residents, resulting in a win-win situation in terms of energy and resources. Methods for providing assistance have been developed in the Guidelines Concerning Subsidies for Inter-district Refuse Treatment Cooperation.

As for the three counties – Nantou, Hualien and Hsinchu – that receive assistance for the incineration of refuse, each county government receives an EPA subsidy of NT$180 per tonne of refuse. This subsidy goes toward carrying out the following tasks to achieve inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment:

  1. Reducing or cancelling basic water, electricity, and health insurance fees for citizens directly affected by the inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment scheme
  2. Training of citizens to participate in refuse inspection as it enters incineration plants
  3. Compensating those who help inspect refuse as it enters incineration plants and providing rewards to those who discover materials that should not enter incineration plants
  4. Planning and carrying out strategies to reduce refuse at the source
  5. Planning and implementing refuse sorting; reuse and recycling of resources and food waste; and installation, operation and maintenance of necessary equipment and facilities
  6. Planning and implementing collection of refuse treatment fees based on volume
  7. Organizing and mobilizing environmental volunteers
  8. Education and training of environmental volunteers
  9. General waste clearance and treatment equipment including items for keeping the streets clean
  10. Developing environmental industries and giving preferential treatment to residents directly affected by related activities

From 2005 to the end of 2012, the EPA implemented inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment including assistance with developing contracts, transfer of refuse to incineration plants and promotion of related environmental industries. This has led to the following concrete results:

  1. In July 2005, the EPA actively coordinated with Hualien and Yilan counties on a mutually beneficial inter-district cooperation scheme – the nation’s first finalized contract in inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment between two counties. This kicked off a 20-year long-term inter-district cooperation, and is regarded as a milestone for the administrative agreement mechanism. Since then, similar contracts have been successively put into effect between Taichung City and Nantou County, as well as Chiayi County and Nantou County.
  2. From 2006 to 2012, the EPA helped solve problems resulting from the 152,000 tonnes of household refuse that needed to be transferred from Nantou, Hualien, Hsinchu, Penghu, Kinmen and Lianjiang counties to nearby counties for treatment at incineration plants (refuse volumes shown in chart).
  3. From 2006 to 2012, the EPA provided subsidies to ten jurisdictions – Yilan County, Hsinchu City, Miaoli County, Taichung City, Changhua County, Chiayi County, Chiayi City, Tainan City, Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County – to carry out 73 projects in the ten categories mentioned above. The two largest of these categories, accounting for 42.4% of all subsidization, were task: 5) Planning and implementing refuse sorting; reuse and recycling of resources and food waste; and installation, operation and maintenance of necessary equipment and facilities, and task 10) Developing environmental industries and giving preferential treatment to residents directly affected by related activities

Now that there is an annual increase in recycling rates and less pressure on refuse disposal and treatment systems, the focus of incineration plant operation and management has turned to reducing pollution emissions and raising energy efficiency. In the effort to fight global warming through energy conservation and carbon reduction, the EPA will continue to promote inter-district cooperation on refuse treatment while also focusing on ways to recover the heat generated from refuse incineration, as has become the practice of northern European nations using district heating and cooling systems. Further steps include integrating anaerobic digestion of organic wastes, and developing torrefaction and pyrolysis technology and equipment so as to gradually transform incineration plants into local bioenergy centers. These changes will ensure that waste can be utilized to its fullest potential as a resource – indeed this is the direction that next-generation waste treatment needs to take.

International Cooperation


Prepared by Environmental Policy Monthly, August 2013