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Taiwan companies pioneer products made of recycled marine debris

Textile and materials innovation has created green products that appeal to customers

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Products made of marine debris (Business Today photo)

Products made of marine debris (Business Today photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Plastics Industry Development Center (PIDC) is creating a robust ecosystem in which recycled products are not only attractive but profitable.

As the engine behind the country's plastics industry, the PIDC has been coordinating recycling operators and manufacturers since 2013. The center established the Ocean Plastic Coalition (OPC) in 2018 to make ocean trash useful once again.

"Plastics account for 80-90 percent of marine debris. That is why we feel obliged to deal with this problem," PIDC Manager Hsu Hsiang-jui (許祥瑞) told Business Today. Working with members from the OPC, the center has produced some impressive outcomes using waste from the fishing industry.

The first successful case was eyeglass frames made from nylon fishing nets. According to Hsu, it took almost a year of research for the center and the manufacturer, Hwa Meei Optical, to create a smooth frame made of 95 percent recycled materials.

The company now turns several tons of recycled fishing nets per year into eyeglass frames for brands like Decathlon and Julbo. Though the recycling process is expensive, this environmentally friendly frame does not require extra coating on its surface, which in turn balances the cost, making it a sustainable product.

Waste from the fishing industry includes not only plastics but also byproducts from aquaculture, such as unused oyster shells. Residents in southern Taiwan have long understood the usefulness of oyster shells and spray the burned shells on the surface of bungalows, which acts as insulation and keeps temperatures cooler indoors.

Inspired by this practice, Wang Yeh-hsun (王葉訓), founder of Creative Tech Textile, decided to add pulverized oyster shells to fabrics and found the clothes became antistatic, antibacterial, and prevented body odor.

Although people are mostly unfamiliar with this innovative fabric, it has won several international prizes, including the iF Design Award.

As the processing of recycled materials, such as smashing, and cleaning fishing nets, largely relies on manual work, the PIDC is focusing on introducing automated facilities that will further bring down costs and make it easier to turn trash into gold.