Sustainable management of forests is an issue of much concern and debate internationally. Unsustainable management of native forests can lead to the destruction of valuable ecosystems and unsustainably managed plantations can result in conversion of native forest (or other ecologically valuable land uses) for the production of timber. With this trend, many Green Mark specifications in developed countries have started to include the criteria that fibers and pulps, whether virgin or recycled, used to manufacture tissue and paper products should be certified by internationally recognized forestry management programs that support responsible and environmentally friendly forestry practices.
The Committee urges the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to keep up with global efforts to reduce illegal deforestation and the conversion of forests to non-forestry uses, protect biodiversity, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing its Green Mark criteria in the paper and tissue category to include the responsible sourcing of raw materials through internationally recognized certification programs like the Forest Stewardship Council.
Suggestion 1: Enhance the Green Mark criteria in the paper and tissue category to include the responsible sourcing of raw materials through internationally recognized certification programs like the Forest Stewardship Council.
The promotion of sustainable and responsible forestry management has been adopted by governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations around the world as part of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In Taiwan, approximately 99% of the pulp, timber, and paper supply is imported, mostly from neighboring Southeast Asian countries where illegal deforestation and the conversion of forests to non-forestry uses continue to be rampant. We therefore urge the EPA to re-evaluate its Green Mark criteria on tissue and paper products to add a requirement for responsible raw material sourcing. The criteria should equally recognize products made with recycled or virgin fibers when both of them have been certified by internationally recognized third-party verified sustainable forest management certification programs such as the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC™). The Committee has continuously raised the issue since 2010, but progress has been disappointing.
The responsible sourcing and raw materials certification concept has been widely adopted by agencies around the world, including Environmental Choice New Zealand, the Singapore Environment Council’s Singapore Green Label scheme, and Good Environmental Choice Australia. In addition, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in its latest LEED v4 standard adopted in 2013, set a more stringent bar for gaining credits, including the use of disposable janitorial paper products with FSC™ certification or a USGBC-approved equivalent.
The use of recycled material is no longer regarded as the only way to reduce the environmental impact of tissue products, and in reality a constant flow of virgin fiber into the fiber network is needed because wood fibers cannot be recycled indefinitely. Because of the strict forest policy implemented by the government since 1990, virtually all of the virgin fibers and wood materials and a high percentage of recycled fibers used in Taiwan are imported. Yet no regulation has been put in place to check whether the materials come from sustainably and responsibly certified forests – putting Taiwan at great risk of consuming raw materials from protected rainforests.
In that regard, Taiwan is out of step with international trends, as more and more developed countries have been implementing strict regulations to block timber and fiber products from illegal and non-sustainable sources. Examples are the Lacey Act in the United States; the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in the European Union; and the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, all of which are designed to support the legal timber trade and deny access to the market for illegally produced wood products.
In 2015, Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand were greatly impacted by haze caused by intense forest fires from illegal slash-and-burn farming practices on Indonesian islands including Sumatra and Kalimantan. Reportedly some 140,000 people suffered from serious respiratory ailments. In response to the serious haze, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) tightened the rules governing its Singapore Green Label to exclude tissue and paper products made by manufacturers deemed to be associated with the deforestation. Effective January 1, 2017, the SEC will only grant Green Label certification to tissue and paper products that can demonstrate compliance with an FSC™ third-party audit.
Based on the above considerations, we urge the EPA to take immediate action to enhance the Green Mark criteria in the paper and tissue category to include the requirement for responsible sourcing of raw materials through internationally recognized certification programs like FSC™.
Suggestion 2: Increase the use of recycled building materials in public buildings.
New public construction should incorporate green building specifications and adopt the “most advantageous tender” system. In addition, the use of recycled building materials should be given priority in the maintenance of existing public buildings.
Without use of “most advantageous tender” approach, which takes factors other than merely price into account, the building materials in winning bids would undoubtedly mostly be made from materials that are un-recycled or recycled using low-grade remnants from furnaces.
As a way of incentivizing the usage of recycled building materials from electronic waste, they should be given a higher score/rating in the bidding process for public green construction in Taiwan. Currently most such waste is burned or buried, with both options meeting resistance from local communities and governments. Using the waste for building materials would help the Taiwanese electronics industry lower costs, while also being environmentally friendly. It would boost the government’s Circular Economy plan, part of the 5+2 Innovative Industries program, aimed at encouraging the re-use – rather than disposal – of waste materials.
Suggestion 3: Provide more financial resources for all businesses related to sustainable development and the circular economy.
The current financial incentives for green financing and green bonds are mostly available for renewable energy projects only. We believe that this approach is unnecessarily narrow and that the government should help provide financial resources for all businesses related to sustainable development and the circular economy.