Caption: After finishing your lunch box and hand-shaken drink, do you have the habit of putting the paper tableware and paper cup along with the takeout paper bag in the “paper recycling bin?” You may not know that there is a “tip” for recycling paper and paper tableware!
【EN】After finishing your takeout meal, do you know which paper and paper containers need to be recycled?
Paper containers, including paper beverage cups, aluminum foil bags, lunch boxes, and paper tableware served to hold drinks, soups, and cooked foods may inevitably create liquid waste and residue after eating. It is recommended to rinse them or wipe them with used tissue paper or paper towel after use. After removing most of the food scraps, it is best to stack the paper containers to ease paper container recycling. For aluminum foil bags, they should be flattened to squeeze out air before throwing them into the recycling bin.
These two additional small practices can avoid the breeding of bacteria due to food scraps. Meanwhile, flattened paper food containers will occupy less space to ease recycling efforts.
The correct recycling process is to recycle the paper containers and waste paper separately.
Caption: Paper container processing of Lien Tai Paper Corp. (Diagram: Provided by Lien Tai Paper Corp.)
Many people do not realize that “paper containers” and “paper” must be recycled separately. The paper container’s interior is laminated with a plastic film or aluminum foil to separate the food from the paper packaging. The purpose is to enhance waterproofing, anti-spilling, and heat preservation features of the paper containers. It is because of this laminated layer that results in the paper containers not being purely composed of “pulp,” instead consisting of paper, plastic film, or aluminum foil material.
In the case of aluminum foil bags, the packaging material contains aluminum foil, PE coating, and other materials. In addition to PE coating, paper tableware may also have a wax coating. For this reason, paper containers and “paper” must be recycled separately. Perhaps, this is the most confusing thing for the general public.
In Taiwan, when most of the waste paper containers enter the correct recycling process, they will be sent to the recycling plants that can process the waste paper containers. Take “Lien Tai Paper" in Miaoli as an example: the recycling process of waste paper containers is treated differently depending on the characteristics of the packaging materials. For example, the “plastics” in waste paper containers will undergo three cleaning procedures during the recycling process. Initially, they will enter the “hydropulping” process which operates on the same principle of a “blender,” separating the pulp, plastic film, aluminum foil, and other packaging materials in the waste paper containers. The pulp is then extracted and used as recycled paper raw materials by paper mills.
Subsequent procedures include a buoyancy process that uses water to remove the impurities that got mixed up during the recovery process, plastic film removal, “aluminum-plastic separation” process, plastics rinsing, transferring the plastics to the granulator to yield plastic pellets, and providing them to plastic factories as raw materials.
In terms of paper container recycling, it is overall very beneficial to decompose every lunch box carefully to re-extract the reusable materials. If we send the paper containers to the correct place for reuse, it is considered the most beautiful thing in the process of resource recycling.
Due to the increasing use of paper containers year after year, we should strive to do more recycling!
Caption: “Paper containers” and "paper" must be recycled separately, and need to undergo different recycling and circulation processes. (Photo: Provided by Yang Zi Jin)
The government has been working very hard to promote the policy restricting the use of plastics in recent years, but the usage rate of paper containers has become higher and higher recently due to a large population that eats out in Taiwan. It is difficult to grasp the correct paper tableware usage data in Taiwan due to lacking a single statistical unit. Based on the statistics released in March 2018 by the Department of Statistics, Ministry of Economic Affairs, the paper container industry has been thriving for five consecutive years due to the large population that eats out and also changes in consumer behaviors. This has resulted in the output value of paper containers reaching NT$64.4 billion, representing an increase of 6.94% and $4.2 billion.
From this figure, we know that if the disposable paper containers are not properly recycled, they may, on the other hand, become another environmental burden. Let’s imagine the scenario in a hypermarket during a holiday - there are numerous free food sampling stations lined up and each consumer is holding a small paper cup to try out the free food samples, which is then discarded immediately after eating the food. The accumulated number of discarded cups is alarming, and it is indeed a waste to some extent.
As a user, besides bringing your own tableware and reducing the use of paper containers, the best way is to recycle them correctly after use. It will allow the resources to be recovered from the paper container recycling process to create a friendlier environment.