Realizing sustainability in local communities
July 26, 2021
Since inception more than 20 years ago, BenQ Materials has been committed to improving its manufacturing facilities and processes in becoming an environmentally sustainable company that coexists in harmony with local communities and stakeholders to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship. In this interview, we invited Ray Liu, President of BenQ Materials, to share the company’s environmental strategies and actions taken.
In setting up our factories and managing our manufacturing activities, the approach taken has been to “do no harm to the local environment and stakeholders”. Take our Yunlin factory for example, which was originally designed for making adhesives for polarizers. Right next to the factory is a duck farm. We were very careful when we established the factory and were very considerate of the local residents. From the very beginning, we surveyed the surrounding areas, including taking inventory of existing odors and organic gases to make sure that we did not contribute to increasing prevailing concentrations. We see compliance with local laws and regulations as a starting point. For us, the bigger goal is not to disrupt the local residents. Yunlin is a large agricultural community and the duck farms in the area surrounding our factory have their own environmental monitoring system. We’ve never received any complaints from the local people. And that to us corroborates our “do no harm” philosophy.
In the case of our Taoyuan factory, a residential area is located just six meters away from it. There were some noise problems initially. After making improvements and adding noise-proofing equipment, the background noise levels were subdued to under 10 decibels. Not even our night shift operations affected the sleep quality of the local residents. Through the steps taken, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to the well-being of the local community. It goes beyond complying with regulatory requirements or as a response to complaints by local residents.
As for our Longtan plant, some organic gases are generated during the production process. We were aware that residents would be sensitive to the emissions, so we put in place strict measures to control them and made sure that they came in below what is considered standard.
We have a clear understanding of our operational environments in Yunlin, Taoyuan, and Longtan. For us it’s important to set clear goals and directions when it comes to environmental protection. Many goals we put in place are not achievable in the short-term but they bear fruit with constant effort and improvements. Our manufacturing facilities can coexist in harmony with our surroundings as we progress towards reaching a target of zero pollution and mitigating our impact on the environment.
As an industrial products manufacturer, causing no harm to the environment in our manufacturing process is our foremost goal. Next is to reach zero waste and zero carbon emissions in the long term. Based on the concept of a circular economy, we consider how to reuse water, electricity and raw materials from the outset, right from the design stage. For example, early on we were producing optical discs and polarizers, which by their nature require huge amounts of water during production. Since making polarizers in 2003, we have reviewed better water-saving techniques. This is especially so in light of periodic water shortages in Taiwan over the past 20 years. We now use 1,300 tons of water daily, of which only 350 tons are non-recycled water sourced externally. Three-quarters of our daily requirement come from recycled water. Going forward, we want to reach zero wastewater and 100% recycled water in our factories.
Furthermore, we use as much recycled materials as possible for raw materials. For instance, our first polarizers were shipped in cardboard boxes, but seven or eight years ago we started using PP (polyproplene) boxes, which are sent to customers and then recycled. As for the rolls of our battery separator films, they are shipped to customers and then returned to our factory for reuse. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that at the product design stage, we select solvents that do not cause harm to the human body or to the environment. Our polarizers, for example, do not use toluene in the production process. We want to make sure that if something cannot be recycled, its impact on the environment is minimized.
We remain on the path to advance our goal of causing “no negative impact on the environment”. To illustrate, take a look at the ecological pond at our Taoyuan factory. The water in it is treated wastewater from our factory. It’s a clean, thriving environment with fish living in it and birds come to catch them at night. Because of the clean water quality, it can be discharged into the river without further processing through a water treatment plant. So there’s a virtuous circle of environmental benefits happening here.
One more thing I’d like to highlight is that we aim to “generate green energy from green energy” in specific product lines. For instance, our Yunlin factory uses power generated from its own solar panels to produce materials for lithium batteries. So we’re using renewable energy from solar panels to produce the separators needed in batteries needed for green energy systems. What’s more, we’re also looking to treat the waste solvents of the polarizers in our factory. These can be burned and the steam used to generate electricity. Ultimately, in the spirit of a circular economy, we aim to have reusable solvents and to use the solvents that cannot be recycled as fuel for energy generation. In short, we’re committed to the ethos of a circular economy, minimizing our environmental footprint, and co-existing in harmony with our local communities for shared growth.