The two-day Textile International Forum and Exhibition 2020 (TIFE2020) ended on Thursday with experts discussing at length the topics of circular economy and industrial digitalization in relation to the textile industry.
Both topics are vital for Taiwan’s textile industry. Circular economy is in line with Taiwan’s long-term goal of sustainable development, while industrial digitalization means bringing Taiwan’s traditional textile industry into the age of 5G and Cloud, according to experts invited to speak on the second day of the forum.
“Circular economy is a must for Taiwan. We import 90% of natural resources and 60% of food which has cost us immensely. As we consume them, we create wastes. When we process them for exports, we cause pollution or environmental problems,” said Charles Jwo, vice president for marketing of Hoyu Textile Co., LTD.
Circular economy means no waste
“Circular economy means when we select raw materials, we want to re-use them and make no waste, and more importantly we don’t want to create toxic chemicals in making or using them. We need to have this in mind when we design and manufacture our products,” Jwo said.
Jwo praised international brands like Apple, Adidas, and IKEA for being the pioneers in practicing circular economy, saying all enterprises should learn from them in designing and making products, and setting up production standards.
Taiwan’s textile companies know the importance of having internationally recognized certification for their products, but Taiwan does not have them yet, Jwo noted.
Taiwan wants to be able to issue GRS certification
Lack of these standards causes huge inconvenience to Taiwan manufacturers, according to Li Jo-hwa, chief of the Department of Testing and Certification’s Sustainability and Certification Section at Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI).
“Taiwan manufacturers have complained that they have to send products to China or Hong Kong for Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certification. We hope to be able to issue GRS certification in Taiwan within two or three years,” she said.
GRS traces the production process of a product and shows this product causes minimum waste or environmental pollution and can be recycled.
While the Taiwan government supports circular economy, there is a private institution which draws up strategies for the circular economy in Taiwan.
This institution is called Taiwan Circular Economy Network which works closely with TTRI.
Edge and drawbacks
Erica Tian, in charge of planning at the network, says Taiwan has an edge over other countries in pursuing a circular economy, but it also has drawbacks.
“Taiwan is called a genius in recycling waste as we can recycle 60% of waste material, but the other 40% cannot be recycled because we did not have recycling in mind when we designed products. Therefore, we must turn waste into reusable material with added value,” she said.
“For example, when Taiwan families cook turnips, they used to peel the turnips and throw away the peels. Now they use the peels to make pickled vegetables which are delicious and can be sold for a good price,” Tian said.
“We need to change our mindset. In the past, enterprises wanted to sell products and encouraged people to buy. In the future, they no longer sell products, but sell knowledge and services,” she said.
Taiwan’s goal: zero waste, zero emission
Taiwan’s goal is to achieve zero waste and zero emission, and become a world leader in the circular economy, she said.
Apart from the circular economy, other experts at the forum also addressed the issue of industrial digitalization.
Modernization of Taiwan’s textile industry began many years ago. It is gaining momentum as we are faced with the arrival of the 5G and the Cloud era, said TTRI Chief Technology Officer Derek Luo.
The project, affecting Taiwan’s 551 textile enterprises, is moving smoothly as textile industry workers have come to realize the benefit it brings.
“Some old workers are afraid that upgrading the industry meant taking away their jobs. But we tell them that we only want to reduce labor, reduce waste, and increase output, so they no longer resist change,” Luo said.
Taiwan seeks Amazon, Microsoft help in developing Cloud
Textile workers support digitalization because the research and development of the textile industry are based in Taiwan, but many of Taiwan’s factories are spread out in Southeast Asia like Vietnam. So many of Taiwan’s companies must send data and images to their overseas factories via the Internet.
“Currently we are developing various software and put them into the Cloud, so that Taiwanese and foreign textile factories can pay to use them, like using apps. By using artificial intelligence, they can link up with textile counterparts in other countries, can use Big Data for analysis, and can improve production,” Luo said.
Luo said TTRI is collaborating with Amazon and Microsoft in developing Cloud for the textile industry. They hope to develop 200 apps each year in the next four years, he said.
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