用「設計思考」減少垃圾

台灣循環經濟的龐大潛能
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2020 / 2月

文‧謝宜婷 圖‧莊坤儒


2016年,台灣被《華爾街日報》讚許為「垃圾回收的天才」;同年上任的新政府宣布台灣將進入「循環經濟」的時代,並將這項目標列入「5+2產業創新計畫」。剎時,「循環經濟」成了熱門關鍵字,但許多人也誤將它與回收畫上等號。事實上,這是一個超越回收、跨足不同產業,能夠引領台灣走出代工困境的轉型策略。


 

「循環經濟」,一言以蔽之,就是思考「如何不製造垃圾。」今日線性經濟的商業模式恰好相反:原料開採、商品製造、消費丟棄,原本有價值的資源淪為令人頭痛的垃圾,而且與日俱增。為了停止產品「從搖籃到墳墓」的宿命,並改變企業與消費者生產、購買的習慣,台灣民間已經開始了一股力量,透過與政府、企業的合作及向民眾的宣導,期盼台灣未來能成為「循環之島」。

從搖籃到搖籃的產品設計

國際上對循環經濟產品設計的討論,始於德國化學教授麥克布朗嘉(Michael Braungart)與美國建築師威廉麥唐諾(William McDonough)提出的「從搖籃到搖籃」(Cradle to Cradle,即C2C)設計原則,認為「好的設計就像大自然,沒有浪費這回事!」產品在設計前端就應該開始思考,最後該如何回到源頭再利用或直接在大自然分解成為養分。

麥克布朗嘉於1987年以C2C的理念在德國創辦了公司EPEA(Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency),之後還在荷蘭、瑞士、土耳其、巴西成立了分公司,而台灣也在2010年成為EPEA在亞洲的第一個據點。

  2012年,「台灣搖籃到搖籃策略聯盟」成立,就是由環保署與EPEA 台灣分公司推動,目的要幫助聯盟業者了解C2C的概念,並合作推動產業的C2C實行計畫。

聯盟成員「南台彩藝印刷」與「德商美最時」就是成功的案例,同屬聯盟的印刷包材小組,對健康印刷有著相同理念,於是開始了印刷的轉型計畫,以「繪博油墨」取代大豆油墨,致力達到零廢棄的目標。

美最時印刷事業部經理黃俊彰表示,看似環保的大豆油,其實有一定比例是礦物油,不但不利於紙類回收利用,也會對印刷人員的健康產生影響,而公司所代理的德國繪博油墨是百分百的植物油墨,符合C2C的認證,沒有對環保與健康的疑慮。南台彩藝知道這項產品後,開始調整印刷技術,將繪博油墨利用在生產過程中。

「健康油墨成本雖然比較高,但是拼價格不是我們的目標,最終達到零廢棄才是。」南台彩藝印刷營運部副理王淳健表示,二代接班人以環保為理念起家,秉持「企業社會責任是從採購開始」的態度,創業過程中一直在找尋理念相同的夥伴,也不斷向客戶宣導健康印刷的重要性,希望能帶起產業內的風氣。

Redefine, Redesign:需求引導設計

「廢棄物資源化只是循環經濟的開始。」循環台灣基金會董事長黃育徵堅定地說,以前講3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle(減量、再利用、回收),但現在要想2Rs: Redefine, Redesign(重新定義、重新設計)。

經常受邀出席循環經濟論壇的黃育徵,只用一個問題就切入觀念核心:「你是需要冷氣機?還是冷風?」當下令人摸不著頭緒的提問,背後隱藏重要的觀念突破。當今的商業模式是計畫性汰舊,產品設計每隔一段時間就需要更新,業者從消費者淘汰換新的購買過程中獲取利益。消費者買越多,業者賺越多,而環境汙染也越多。

「我們其實只需要冷風,不需要一直買冷氣機。」黃育徵點出今日消費的迷思,也強調當消費者「重新定義需求」,業者會改變商業模式與產品設計。原本以汰舊為目的的商業模式,改為「服務消費者」時,產品設計的使用年限會增加,業者獲利來源則轉為定期維修,垃圾也會大量減少。

「我賣服務給你,你會是我一輩子的顧客。」未來產品服務化不只會減少垃圾量,也有助於鞏固消費者對品牌的需求。生活中,需要「重新定義需求」的產品太多,黃育徵隨手拾來一個例子。「你有在用刮鬍刀嗎?用完怎麼回收?」材料複雜的產品往往因為難以分解,面臨直接被丟棄的命運,但是,如果仔細思考使用者的需求,再加上C2C工業循環的思維,就會有新的設計靈感出現:紙製刮鬍刀!「你有被紙割到過吧?紙製刮鬍刀用完可以直接丟掉,回歸大自然。」黃育徵興奮地分享在循環設計的思考中,生活會產生很多改變。

循環經濟的產品設計,聽起來有點夢幻,但台灣其實已經有不少例子。循環台灣基金會蒐集了國內66個案例集結成冊《邁向循環台灣:循環經濟實踐案例》,書中介紹了不同機構如何透過「系統性思考」,將別人的廢棄物轉為自己的原料,讓資源留在循環內,不停地被使用。

「台灣其實有機會在這個領域(循環經濟)成為領導者。」參加過許多國際論壇的黃育徵認為,台灣過去的弱點其實是現在的優勢,多年的代工經驗累積了堅強的生產實力,這是歐洲國家無法超越的,事實上,已經有歐洲國家想要借鏡台灣在循環經濟的方法。

「台灣必然會走上循環經濟這條路,只是時間早晚的問題。」黃育徵表示,台灣產業以代工為主,但是,原料幾乎都仰賴進口,這樣的情況下,轉型以設計為主的循環經濟模式,才是未來發展的目標。

REnato lab:循環經濟實驗室

循環經濟的觀念興起,協助企業採用循環經濟的公司也應運而生。REnato lab在2014年成立,是一間環保顧問公司,取名re加上nato(義大利文),分別代表重生與誕生,象徵公司透過循環經濟的方法,讓所有看似無用的廢棄物再次產生價值。

創辦人王家祥過去任職於財團法人中技社,協助政府擬定環保、能源等施政策略。他發現政策雖然能影響產業,但是無法改變民眾購買環保產品的意願,於是他決定由下而上去改變。透過協助企業盤點與教育民眾,王家祥希望大家能夠了解概念,進而主動支持、行動。

REnato lab前期,主要在將廢棄物做成產品,例如將輪胎做成椅子,但後來王家祥發現廢棄物的量實在太多,「台灣一年玻璃的回收量,如果拿來做杯子,每個人可以得到76個!」與其在後端做成其他產品,不如幫助企業在前端就找出問題,減少廢棄物產出,於是後來轉型為顧問公司。

除了協助單一企業盤點,找出產生廢棄物的主要原因,REnato lab也連結不同企業,從廢棄物處理、製成原料、做成產品到銷售,不同單位串聯起來,才能完成一個循環設計的產品。除了產品之外,循環經濟商業模式的調整也是他們的服務之一,像是協助宏碁(Acer)電腦在全台7-11門市建立舊電池蒐集點,方便消費者回收。

轉型為顧問公司的REnato lab還是保有產品設計的工作,甚至建立了一套材料庫,讓設計師可以清楚掌握材料性質,做出適合的產品。「我們的實驗室,就在別人的工廠。」王家祥說,他把REnato lab定位為「循環經濟的實驗室」,會嘗試用客戶的材料做產品,做出來之後,如果客戶也接受,隔天就可以直接進生產線。爽快的口氣中,聽得出他對循環設計的熱情。過去有幾次,REnato lab因為案件成果規模做得比當初跟客戶約定的大,成本幾乎花光,「最後自己做得很高興,但結果沒賺錢。」就算有時候會賠錢,為什麼還堅持呢?王家祥微笑著說:「解決事情的效益,比賺錢還大,這樣想就比較好過了。」

REnato lab想影響的不只有企業,還有民眾。王家祥談起循環經濟中每個角色的關係,用車子作了一個生動的比喻:「政策跟技術就像車子的啟動器,企業與民眾就像是齒輪。車子要發動,靠的是啟動器,但是要繼續前進,靠的就是不同齒輪的配合了。」用理解取代說教,是王家祥的信念,而這也反映在REnato lab的策展中,去(2019)年在華山文創的展覽──Future is now,讓民眾在不同情境去發現可以透過哪些資源與管道,實行循環經濟的生活;並透過體驗破除大眾對循環設計產品的迷思:不美觀、不耐用。

「環境教育應該要讓消費者藉著體驗去了解,進而支持。」王家祥認為教條只能規定,但是體驗才能帶來改變。

台灣的挑戰:品牌與資源

黃育徵與王家祥,兩位在循環經濟領域都有豐富的經驗,不約而同地表示,「品牌」與「資源分配」是台灣當前發展循環經濟的兩大挑戰。

王家祥表示,國內民眾對於循環設計的商品,普遍都有「回收的為什麼還這麼貴?」的疑惑,但是國外的情況相反,民眾願意多花一些錢來支持環保的產品。因為這樣的意識,所以國外循環設計的商品是知名的品牌,售價甚至媲美精品,例如瑞士回收再製帆布包FREITAG。

不過近年來,台灣民眾對再生商品的接收度有提高,像是愛迪達與耐吉分別利用海廢與寶特瓶抽紗做成的鞋子,但是這些牌子並非台灣本土品牌,「如果是國內品牌,就不一定有這個價格。」王家祥認為台灣的設計在國際上是有知名度的,但是循環設計的品牌還需要更多曝光。

黃育徵表示,台灣要發展循環經濟,需要中小企業帶動大企業。大企業規模龐大,只能做些微調整,相反地,中小企業的彈性高,構思活潑,比較有可能做整體的改變。王家祥表示如果政府調配資源分配,讓中小企業有更多機會發展循環經濟,這樣在產業中發酵的速度會比較快。

循環經濟是另一種商業模式,也是看待環境的新眼光:讓資源生生不息,在循環內不停流動。當台灣陷入缺水、缺電、缺地的困境,循環經濟也許就是一帖解方。

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Waste Reduction by Design

Building the Circular Economy in Taiwan

Tina Xie /photos courtesy of Kent Chuang /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

In 2016 The Wall Street Journal praised the Taiwanese as “the world’s geniuses of garbage disposal.” That same year the newly elected government proclaimed that Taiwan was entering the era of the “circular economy” as part of the nation’s “5+2” industrial innovation program. Instantly, the phrase became a buzzword. Nevertheless, many people mistakenly equate the term with recycling. In fact, it is a policy aimed at economic trans­formation that transcends recycling or any one industry as it pushes Taiwan beyond the limit­ations of “OEM” contract manufacturing.


 

Simply put, a “circular economy” focuses on how not to create waste. Today’s standard linear economic and commercial model takes quite the opposite approach: Natural resources are discovered and exploited; products are manufactured; and consumers throw them away. Resources that had been of value become ever-­growing, headache-inducing piles of garbage. But some people in Taiwan have been working hard to change this “cradle-to-grave” destiny of products and the production and purchasing habits of businesses and consumers that foster it. Through co­operation with both government and industry, and by educating the consuming public, they hope to promote a future in which Taiwan becomes a “circular island.”

Cradle-to-cradle product design

The first international discussions about creating products for a circular economy came with the “cradle to cradle” (C2C) design ethos pioneered by the German chemistry professor Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough. “Good design is like nature,” they argued. “There should be no such thing as waste!” At the very start of product design, consideration should be given to how a product will ultimately be broken apart and reused or decomposed to nourish nature.

In Germany in 1987, Braungart founded the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA), a private-sector consultancy, based on C2C principles. Branches were later set up in the Netherlands, Switzer­land, Turkey and Brazil. In 2010 the first Asian branch was opened in Taiwan.

In 2012, the Taiwan Cradle to Cradle Strategic Alliance (C2C Taiwan) was established at the urging of EPEA Taiwan and the ROC’s Environmental Protection Agency. The organization’s goal is to help its members understand C2C concepts and guide them to work together to push implementation of C2C plans within industry. 

Redefine, redesign

“The resource utilization of waste is just the beginning of the circular economy,” insists Charles Huang, chairman of the Taiwan Circular Economy Network. He believes that the old “three Rs” of “reduce, reuse, recycle” need to be supplemented by the “two Rs” of “redefine and redesign.”

“What we really need is cool air, not the recurring expense of purchasing air-­conditioners.” Huang exposes current consumer myths and emphasizes that when consumers “redefine their needs,” industry will change its operating models and redesign its products. The existing  industry model of product replacement as a business goal will change to “serving consumers.” As the longevity of products increases, scheduled maintenance becomes a main source of profits, and waste shrinks.

“If I sell services to you, then you’ll be my lifelong customer.” In addition to reducing waste, product servicing can also boost consumers’ brand loyalty.

In our daily lives, there are so many products for which “the need for a product should be redefined.” Huang cites an example: “Have you ever had a paper cut? If razors were made from paper, they could be composted after use.” Huang excitedly shares how circular design will bring many changes to our lives.

“In fact, Taiwan has an opportunity to become a leader in the circular economy.” Huang, who has participated in many international forums, believes that one of the island’s weak points has become a strength: Many years of operating as an “OEM” contract manufacturing economy has blessed Taiwan with strong manu­facturing abilities as good as those of any European nation. In fact, some European nations want to learn methods of the circular economy from Taiwan.

“Taiwan will end up going the route of the circular economy,” Huang asserts. “The only question is: Will it be sooner or later?” Taiwan’s economy is based around its OEM work, but it relies on imports for its raw materials. Consequently, changing to a circular economic model that leverages its design prowess should be a develop­ment goal.

REnato: Lab for the circular economy

As the concept of the circular economy has taken off, firms that help companies make the most of it have come into being. Estab­lished in 2014, REnato lab takes its name from the English “re” plus the Italian word for “born.” The name represents how the company is using circular economic methods to bring value to seemingly worthless waste products.

Founder Jackie Wang used to be employed at China Technical Consultants, where he worked with government to draw up environmental and energy policies. He discovered that although those policies could impact industry, they didn’t increase the willingness of consumers to purchase en­viron­mental products. Hence, he decided he needed to create comprehensive change from the ground up. Early on, REnato lab mainly focused on making products from waste, such as by turning old tires into chairs. But later Wang realized that there was simply too much waste. “If all of Taiwan’s recycled glass was turned into drinking glasses, every person on the island could have 76 of them each year!” So he decided that instead of focusing on helping industry turn its waste into products, it would be better to tackle the problem at the front end, by reducing the amount of waste created. He thus turned REnato into a consulting firm.

Apart from helping individual companies assess their production of waste, REnato lab also fosters connections among companies, bringing together those involved in waste management and in transforming waste into raw materials, with finished goods producers and sales channels. Only with these con­nections is it possible to design products for the circular economy. In addition to consulting about products, another service it offers is assisting companies to adjust their commercial models to the circular economy. For instance, it helped Acer establish collection points for old electronic products and batteries at 7-Elevens throughout Taiwan, making recycling easy for consumers.

Although it has transformed into a consultancy, REnato lab still handles product design work. It has even established a ­library of materials that allows designers to get a true feel for materials so they can better produce suitable products. “Our laboratories are other people’s factories.” Wang says that REnato lab defines itself as “a labora­tory for the circular economy” that tries to make products out of customers’ materials. Afterwards, if the customer is willing, it can get these products rolling off the production line just a few days later.

But REnato lab wants to have an impact on the public too. At the “Future Is Now” exhibition at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park last year, REnato provided the public with various ways to learn how life could play out in a circular economy. The exhibition also overturned some widely held myths about products designed for the circular economy—namely that they aren’t beautiful or durable.

“Environmental education ought to provide consumers with understanding based on experience—understanding that en­genders support for environmentalism.” Wang believes that dogma only leads to rules, whereas real change comes from true understanding.

Taiwan’s challenge: Brands and resources

Huang and Wang, who both have rich experience in the environmental realm, separ­ately make the same point—that branding and resource allocation are the biggest challenges facing Taiwan in developing the circular economy.

Wang explains that consumers in Taiwan typically raise the same question about products in the circular economy: “Why does recycled stuff have to be so expensive?”

Yet Taiwan’s public has demonstrated greater acceptance of recycled goods in recent years. For instance, Adidas has made sneakers out of recycled ocean plastics, while Nike has made them from PET bottles. But those aren’t Taiwanese brands. “For a domestic brand, these products might not bear the same value.” Wang believes that Taiwan’s design prowess has achieved a certain level of international recognition, but brands that market products designed for the circular economy still need more exposure.

If Taiwan wants to develop the circular economy, Huang believes, then small and medium-sized enterprises must be the initiators. Larger firms are too unwieldy to make anything more than minor adjustments at first, whereas SMEs are more flexible, more nimble in their thinking, and more capable of making overarching changes. Wang believes that if the government can allocate resources that give SMEs more opportunities to develop within the circular economy, then it will allow those concepts to mature more quickly within industry as a whole. 

As an alternative commercial model, the circular economy takes an environmental perspective that puts resources in a new light, allowing them to be continually renewed as they circulate through the economy. With Taiwan currently facing shortages of water, electricity and land, the circular economy could indeed offer real solutions.

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