Beach Cleaning Event
At a beach cleaning event, we found that there was a lot of rubbish on the beach, mostly plastic straws and paper cups. The staff of the event organizer told us that this plastic-containing garbage will break down into plastic microbeads, eventually leaving plastic microbeads on the beach and in the ocean, causing ecological damage. We were very curious about the source of this drifting garbage, so we designed a questionnaire, focusing on recycling containers.
You can see the results in
We found that people in Taiwan are not clear about the difference between paper containers and other types of recycling. We pursued this issue in two directions: one is how we can solve the problem of the paper cup material, and the other is Taiwan’s larger recycling issue.
Initiating the Project
In the direction of solving the problem of the paper cup, we first divided the final destination of the paper cup into two categories—recycling and incineration. If a cup is not clearly marked as recyclable, it will cause misunderstanding in the general public, but the latter will increase the harm to the environment, which is not the most appropriate solution. As the result, we thought about creating a new material ourselves. In addition to being decomposable in the environment, this new material also has all the characteristics needed for current paper cup production industries.
We finally created LIGGREEN, a brand new lining material. However, we encountered many problems during the process. First of all, in terms of design, we abandoned the original idea of using this new material to replace the entire paper cup, because this would affect too many things that we cannot control, which will involve more problems. As the result, we turned to creating a lining material for the inner layer of the paper cup.
Improving the Project
In designing the paper cup lining material, we asked a lot of paper manufactures and material experts and gain extensive help
Especially from Bobsen Paper Ware Corporation and Dr. Cheng-Han Hsieh from ITRI.
Bobsen Paper Ware Corporation
Since we want to make the lining material of the paper cup, it was necessary to know the current processing conditions of the paper cup laminating industries. Bobsen Paper Ware Corporation gave us the opportunity to visit their factory. We integrated three main criteria that we have to achieve, so that our material could be suitable for the paper factories to enter the lining material market easier. The following three criteria are:
- Similar melt flow index with PE: The melt flow index of PE is 310 Celsius/12.5 kilograms in 10 minutes. Therefore, our material LIGGREEN needs to have similar melt flow index when in 300 Celsius.
- Our material needs to end up in round pellets. First, small pellets are easier to transport, pour and suitable for factories, on the other hand, compare with powders it won’t scatter. Then, round shape could make the procedure more fluent.
- After the entire paper cup procedure completed, an SGS test is required to prove the safety of the paper cup.
The rest of the interview details can be seen in
Engaging Experts - Bobsen
What we had changed
These had greatly affected our project. Our original design of LIGGREEN was powdery. After visiting Bobsen, we realized that end up in powdery might cause scatter, which will increase the risk of explosion. We understood the melting point and fluidity we needed to test for our material in the future, and has changed the production line of final outcome -- pellets. In addition, the SGS test on food packaging should also be noted.
Most important of all, we realized that our product needs to have thorough communication with factories. If our material is completely different from others’, factories won’t accept by changing their high cost equipment to conform to ours.
Dr. Cheng-Han Hsieh from ITRI
To make our material have the ability to be in melt state, our LIGGREEN should be in a chain structure. We had great doubts in this regard. Since LIGGREEN is a lignin-like material, we searched for lignin experts to understand the structure. Finally, we found Dr. Hsieh from the Industrial Technology Research Institute and conducted an interview.
He reminded us that the high molecular weight might make LIGGREEN form reticular formation, which is more complex and hard to control the shape. Most importantly, the reticular formation will turn the material into thermoset state that won’t be able to be in melt state. Therefore, he does not recommend us to increase the molecular weight. Instead, he said that we can control the molecular weight between 2000 and 5000.
The meeting with Dr. Cheng-Han Hsieh solved many doubts for us. At first we designed LIGGREEN, we tried to imitate the chain structure of plastic, and wanted to increase the molecular weight of LIGGREEN. After the suggestion from Dr. Hsieh, we had directly changed our designation of oligomer, in order to let our material could be in melt state. This is a critical information because we learned from Bobsen that having melt state is a must to be suitable for paper manufactures to accept our material.
The rest of the interview details can be seen in
Food Packaging Safety
After we designed the paper cup, we conducted a second survey and found that the public is quite concerned about the safety of food containers.
They want these containers to be safe and risk free when they use them. Thus, to take the social responsibility and win the faith from consumers, we will commit to make LIGGREEN match every certification such as SGS package and container tests, Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials Issue 5. We will also make LIGGREEN be produced in high level to match the food grade like ISO22000、HACCP, etc.
However, many food containers on the market do not clearly indicate their heat-resistant temperature range. In this regard, we put forward two proposals and discussed them with the county councilor, hoping this situation can be improved:
- We discussed with the county councilor that we hope to mark the heat-resistant temperature range and the heat-resistant time on all paper containers, so as to avoid problems when the user reuses the cup. In addition, it must be clearly marked whether the paper container can be microwaved (currently only No. 5 plastic can be microwaved).
- Regarding the problem of ink printing this information on the outer packaging, we believe that whether LIGGREEN or another product is used, this issue is inevitable. Therefore, it is more important to strengthen the standards in this respect, to avoid the problem of color fading or ink smudging, to protect the safety of consumers.
New Recycling System and Paper Container Regulation
Although we have created a new approach to the final outcome of the paper cup, the actual problems in society have not been resolved. Environmental ethics issues still exist and constantly require reflection. Therefore, we decided to visit Taiwan's recycling industry to understand the problems of Taiwan’s recycling system.
Lian-Tai is the only manufacturer who has applied for use of the technique of separating plastic from paper containers, and the government in Taiwan has recognized only Lian-Tai to deal with the business.
They are trying to correct the problem that people were throwing paper containers into non-recyclable trash due to misleading public media. The main reason for this is that
“ When the government started to promote recycling of paper containers by the paper container industries, they told the paper production industries not to recycle paper containers anymore. The paper industries thus told their staff to refuse recycled paper containers, which led to the misunderstanding that paper containers could not be recycled, they should be thrown into non- recyclable trash. “
From the point of view of recycling, it caused many difficulties when the government decided to add paper containers as a separate category in the recycling system. Although the policy was intended to increase the amount of recycling, it increased the difficulty of the recycling procedure. If we cannot improve the recycling problem starting from this origin, it seems there will be no solution.
After the discussion with Lian- Tai, we re-examined the current environmental issues and what is wrong with the recycling system in Taiwan. Finally, we decided to conduct a policy analysis and interview a former legislator who now serves as the county councilor.
After that, we visited various recycling companies and government agencies in Chiayi, and learned that Taiwan's recycling system is like this:
Taiwan's current recycling system involves collection of garbage by government agencies' recycling vehicles in urban areas. After being collected at the government recycling sites, the properly sorted garbage will be combined. The government then outsources (tenders) these mixed recycling wastes to the recycler, who is responsible for reclassifying the waste and selling it to the corresponding processing manufacturer according to the category.
This makes recycling quite inefficient, so we proposed some improvement of policies and hope to fundamentally improve Taiwan's recycling problem. In short, we hope to merge the collection team with the recycler as a “classifier”.
We hope to adopt Japan's recycling measures - set up a recycling point on each block and recycle waste at a scheduled time. For example, only paper can be collected on Monday, and only paper containers can be recycled on Tuesday, and no garbage will be collected on Sunday. We will combine the collection team and the recyclers into classifiers, which combines the two tasks of recycling and sorting at the same time.
This will avoid the collection team's step of mixing the garbage and then outsourcing it to the recycler. These classifiers then sell the classified waste to the corresponding processing vendor. Although in the short term, it may cost the government more, in the long run, we believe that it is necessary to improve Taiwan's recycling problem.
In addition, each store that has a seat and uses paper containers in the store should set up a paper container trash can in the store. If people use these containers in the store, they need to drop them in the paper container bin.
Finally, we hope that the government can legislate that paper containers should be marked with a type of paper container recycling mark printed on the top of the container.
To ensure the operational possibility of our two policies, we visited the Chiayi City mayoral candidate, Shu-li Xiao, who is the chairperson of Chiayi City Council. She hopes to change the negative impression to politician in Taiwanese by exactly implement her policies. Her idea coincides with our spirit of research. For one thing, we consulted her about the policy formulation and asked her to give some advice to our policy for another thing.
In addition, she shared her policy direction with us. On food safety, she hopes to establish a local food standards agency to improve the food sanitation in Chiayi City. By our instructions, she understood more about food packaging safety, and she considered integrating our ideas into her food safety policy.
In the aspect of environmental friendly, she believes that our policy, which corresponds with popular issue in Taiwan, have possibilities to carry out . In the long run, she also considered to add our thoughts into her policy direction, and hope to make Chiayi be an "environmental and ecological city."