Taiwan’s machinery makers prepare for plastic bans
Some single-use plastics, like PET water bottles, serve a good purpose, said Peter Pan, vice general manager for Chumpower Machinery Corp.
Chumpower is a blow molding bottle machine maker in Taichung, the industrial hotbed in the central part of the country. A lot of Chumpower’s customers use its machines to make shampoo bottles or other cosmetics, but they also sell many systems to make water bottles.
“From our understanding, Europeans have started to ban plastics. And maybe PET bottles. Our thinking is different,” Pan said at the company’s headquarters. “In the world, everyone has the right to drink clean water. In Europe and the U.S., they are very good countries so they can drink tap water, no problem. Maybe they don’t need bottled water.”
But there are plenty of places that need it, he said.
“We are marketing in Africa, in the Middle East,” Pan said. “People can not get clean water there. The problem is recycling.”
He said maybe in the future, bans on PET bottles will come to fruition in Europe and the United States. But that is why they are focusing on developing markets and other materials like Tritan copolyester cups to replace glass ones at bars.
The issue of single-use plastics has become a worldwide discussion, and it’s no different in Taiwan. Last year, government officials said they planned to completely ban single-use plastic bags, straws, cups and utensils by 2030.
The bans would go into effect in stages, with restaurants and stores being restricted from giving straws to customers from in-store use starting in July and a full ban in 2020. Some McDonald’s restaurants in the country have already ditched straws, opting for polypropylene lids that pop open and allow customers sip from them. The restaurant has a campaign asking customers to “Kiss the Cup” and have a separate recycling system for the lids in restaurants.
But the ban might not go ahead as planned. According to the Taipei Times,Environmental Protection Administration Minister Chang Tzichin told lawmakers that the proposed timetable needs more deliberation.
A previous EPA minister developed the plan and did not draw up the timeline with careful consideration, he said, according to the newspaper. Lawmakers were questioning if stores were prepared for the straw ban. Many drinks in Taiwan come in a cup with a film cover and straws are handed out regularly at convenience stores.
Injection molding machine maker Fu Chun Shin Machinery Manufacture Co. Ltd. has started to anticipate how bans could impact its business.
Hank Wu, marketing manager for Tainan City, Taiwan-based FCS, said the impact hasn’t been felt just yet, but it could happen in the future. That’s why they were eager to work with customers in Taiwan using polylactic acid and other alternatives.
Ming-Yi Teh, product manager for FCS, said the company has built machines for carbon fiber applications and has worked to broaden its customer base.
“These reinforced plastics will replace metal and thermoset plastics that are unable to be recycled,” Teh said.
Auto suppliers are major FCS customers, and the company sees this as the target market, he said. Other potential applications include the bicycle and aerospace markets. Taiwan is a major producer of bicycles, and performance bicycles are now typically made of carbon fiber.
Pan said Chumpower often gets customers or potential customers asking about various recycled PET and if its machines can handle the material.
“Customers will give us recycled PET to test on our machines,” he said. “It’s no issue. We’ve never had an issue. It’s important that PET be recycled to be turning into more bottles.
“Taiwan has a very good system to recycle PET. And that’s what countries need. We just want people to drink good, clean water,” he said.
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