春池玻璃

廢棄玻璃的永續進行式
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2018 / 4月

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧林格立


瑞士的洛桑管理學院把廢玻璃的回收再利用率,作為國家競爭力的指標之一,乃因為玻璃回收難度最高,回收價格低,因此一旦玻璃回收做得好,其它物料的回收一定也沒問題,春池玻璃董事長特助吳庭安開宗明義的解釋玻璃回收率背後所代表的意義。

台灣玻璃回收率居全球第二,僅次於瑞典。身為台灣最大的玻璃回收廠,春池玻璃一年的回收量約10萬噸,佔台灣回收玻璃的7成,減少的碳排放量也相當於蓋了500座大安森林公園。在回收毛利不高的狀況下,春池玻璃在近一甲子的年歲中,只投注在一件事上──專注回收,實踐循環經濟。


 

扭開噴火槍的開關,吳庭安將高達八百度的藍色火焰對準他新開發的綠建材「安新輕質節能磚」(以下簡稱「節能磚」),燒了幾分鐘,不見任何煙霧產生,節能磚的表面也沒有燒灼的痕跡,伸手觸摸磚的背面還是冰涼的,其防火、隔熱效果讓人嘖嘖稱奇。還記得吳庭安在某次報導中,打趣地說,有了節能磚,發生火災時,可以喝一杯咖啡再逃走。3月初,節能磚剛在新加坡完成4個小時的防火認證,這成績讓吳庭安的玩笑,升級成睡一場午覺再避難都來得及。

回收玻璃毛利,被逼著要創新

從傳統的回收業,到研發出全球首創以面板玻璃廢料為原料的綠建材,春池玻璃近年的創意轉身讓人驚嘆連連。但從玻璃回收業,跨足到工業原料、科技建材、文化藝術與觀光工廠,「我們做創新其實是被大環境逼著走的。」吳庭安表示。

他的父親吳春池投入玻璃相關產業已經五十多年。13歲開始在玻璃工廠當學徒,了解製作玻璃的配方,後來轉經營廢玻璃回收。但玻璃回收的毛利很低,1公斤的回收價只有幾毛錢,不把規模做大,幾乎沒有利潤可言,吳春池從一台小車四處收集廢棄玻璃,慢慢擴大規模,成為今日全台最大的玻璃回收廠。

昔日回收的玻璃經過分類、分色及去雜質等程序後,再經機械磨碎及玻璃窯爐熔燒等製程,製成原物料賣給玻璃業者。但隨著企業的規模擴增,春池接收的玻璃種類越來越多,數量也呈倍數增加,庫存的風險也越高。「做回收,最大的壓力就是滯銷。」吳庭安舉例,十多年前,市場上容器玻璃的需求銳減,但回收端不能拒絕接收回收的容器玻璃,庫存成了壓力,吳春池那時就將廢棄的容器玻璃研發成「亮彩琉璃」的綠建材,為傳統抿石建築工法增添另一種建材,也幫廢棄玻璃創造新的市場。亮彩琉璃隔音佳、不沾塵且不吸水,不僅適用於建築,也被運用在藝術創作上,桃園機場第一航廈A7候機室廣幅的「台灣百嶽」圖,就是以亮彩琉璃施作的公共藝術。

玻璃變身節能磚,綠建材身價翻倍

以創新成功度過第一次危機,下一回的風險卻隨之而來。台灣為3C生產大國,每年都有大量的面板玻璃廢料需回收。這類型的玻璃因製程中添加了氧化鋁、氧化矽,再製時熔點更高,更為耗能,回收後難以運用。吳庭安卻逆向思考,熔點高代表適合做為防火建材,他運用自己資源工程的專業,把學生時期已研究成功的發泡玻璃磚拿到工廠來試作;但量產規模不一樣,配方比例要重新調配,機台也要重新設計,幾經波折才量產成功。

吳庭安解釋發泡玻璃磚(節能磚)的原理,面板玻璃研磨成粉末後,混合水泥,再經過發泡的程序,使磚體內部形成蜂巢的孔狀結構;這些發泡後形成的孔洞,能阻絕熱源和聲音,跟保溫杯利用兩金屬間的真空阻絕熱傳導的概念相同。

節能磚具有防火、隔音、隔熱、環保、無毒、減震等6大特性,而且重量只有傳統磚的1/8重,單手即可拿起,極具市場潛力。吳庭安說:「我們的優勢是施工很快,比一般的磚作快4倍,可以減省人力。連工帶料,節能磚的成本比磚牆還便宜10%。」在勞力日趨昂貴的趨勢下,吳庭安看好自家產品的前景。其實,節能磚早在2014年就被交通大學「UNICODE」能源屋計畫團隊運用在「蘭花屋」的設計中,參加「歐洲永續建築十項全能大賽」(Solar Decathlon Europe),也協助團隊一舉取得輝煌戰績,成為台灣之光。

節能磚從2013年量產,已經通過台灣TAF耐燃一級及內政部防火二小時認證,也通過新加坡TUV兩小時防火認證及綠建材標章。吳庭安先以新加坡當主要市場,其位處亞熱帶氣候,是東南亞最先進的國家,對新建材的接受度也最高。如果節能磚能通過新加坡的法規,週邊的泰國、印尼、馬來西亞各國也會逐步跟進。節能磚在歐美市場的詢問度也頗高,吳庭安逐步布局,要讓春池的節能磚走向國際,讓世界見識台灣的回收創意。

無限可能的「W春池計畫」

2017年,吳庭安開啟了「W春池計畫」。

從小在玻璃回收廠長大的吳庭安,他還記得堆積如山的羊奶瓶發臭讓人作嘔的味道,也記得工廠裡員工和父親撿拾、分類玻璃時辛苦的身影。日復一日的潛移默化,讓他對工程、材料科學有興趣,在成大讀了資源工程,到英國劍橋修得工業管理的學位。返台後,先到了台積電工作,才返家接棒。科技業的經驗讓他了解所有的科技終將變成傳統產業,產業的毛利會下跌,因此,企業的轉型與永續是未來勢必面臨的議題。而春池的未來在哪裡呢?或許在他提出的W春池計畫中隱含的「循環經濟」可以找到解答。

「W,是我父親的吳(Wu),也是廢棄物的W(Waste),但是它最重要的意思是『沒有』,也就是『無』(wu)。」W春池計畫沒有設限,舉凡以「回收」為理念,利用春池的回收玻璃、玻璃師傅手藝為媒介,加上外來設計者的跨界合作都算是W春池計畫。

2017年台灣文化創意設計博覽會裡策展的「循環經濟海洋」,運用40噸回收玻璃做成的玻璃海,邀請參觀者脫鞋踩踏,體驗觸感。7月的北投納涼季,在溫泉博物館的溫泉池裡,以回收玻璃為原料、手工吹製的玻璃浮鈴,漂浮碰撞的清脆聲響,讓人用聽覺與視覺感受夏日情懷。或是跟江振誠合作設計餐具 Darts by André,整組餐皿由回收玻璃再製,木底盤則採用退役橡木酒桶製成。或是跟歌手林俊傑合作,製作手印玻璃瓶為唱片預購禮。每個案例都讓回收玻璃以不同的形式出現在生活中,成為日常的一部分。

這聽來像是產業鏈最末端的業者轉守為攻,跑到前端去創造需求?

沒錯,「循環經濟應該是從後端去產生價值,才能促進循環。」「再利用要再利用成有價值的東西,或在市場上開創出有價值的東西,這個才是循環經濟的真義。」吳庭安再追加解釋。他利用「循環」的概念,與不同領域的人合作,為回收玻璃創造機會。例如跟林俊傑合作的手印玻璃瓶,因為唱片預購的數量不斷追加,後續的循環就默默被帶動起來。「143一口啤酒杯」計畫,則是號召民眾跟一線的回收人員互動,道聲謝,拍照打卡,就可換取春池以回收玻璃再製的啤酒杯。這企畫不僅獲得廣大民眾響應,也帶出日治時期,專賣局為管制酒品消耗,將啤酒杯的容量縮小成143毫升的典故。

設計界的朋友亦主動尋求春池合作,來自香港的設計師梁康勤原先多以陶土創作,卻發現大量生產製程中所產生的廢棄品無法再回收利用,造成資源的消耗浪費。她思索藝術創作是該只專注於創造美的作品,用以賣出獲利或是要尋求對環境更有意義的創作。透過朋友引薦她找到了春池玻璃,發現玻璃能百分之百回收的特性,比陶瓷更環保;春池玻璃手藝精湛的老師傅們用回收玻璃吹成她設計的作品,成品又可以百分百再回收,也消解了她心中的疑慮。

用一輩子實踐循環經濟

走進春池的觀光工廠,吹製玻璃的作業區還保留著50年前的樣態,窯爐24小時燒著,每天兩班制,看著擁有數十年經驗的玻璃師傅,從窯爐中挖出高溫火紅玻璃膏,或是以口吹型,或是放到模具裡成型,吹玻璃是跟時間賽跑的工藝,師傅的每個動作都不多餘,都有用意。「師傅的技藝如何傳承,是我最擔心的,其他的可以用自動化去取代,但是這個東西沒辦法,因為這是文化,需要時間的累積才能有這個底蘊。」吳庭安說。這些師傅已積累數十年的經驗是無形的文化資產,每個人都技藝超群,任何作品只要看一眼就能如法炮製,但他們原初的訓練缺乏從0到1的創造,「W春池計畫一部分也想去補強這部分。藉由跨界合作,創造市場需求,進而讓師傅們的手藝能夠有傳人,能夠傳承下去。」吳庭安語重心長地說。

「W春池計畫到最終可能不是一個品牌,而是一個成長的有機體。」吳庭安繼續衍生解釋。隨著各式各樣的合作案不斷創新,春池玻璃在裡面扮演循環、幫忙的角色,讓循環、永續的概念在社會流動,產生影響力。「如果這個模式成功的話,也許這個循環的材料不一定是玻璃,任何可循環概念下的東西都可以變成W春池計畫的一環。」

從W春池計畫中,我們發現吳庭安從產業、文化、經濟、傳承,面面俱到地思索了一輪。未來W春池計畫會怎麼發展?吳庭安說他也不知道,「唯一確定的是玻璃回收是絕對不會消失的。」「或許春池不用創立自己的品牌,而是跟很多人不同的跨界合作,讓每一個跨界都是獨立的品牌;或許春池也不用開設自己的通路,只要大家知道那是春池inside 的循環就好了。」吳庭安說。

2018年,還有更多的W春池計畫在推動中,光想像著未來無限的可能性,就讓人興奮不已。但是在一切酷翻了、炫斃的合作案背後,隱藏著春池「把自己本業做到最好的精神」,是春池玻璃的網頁上寫下的「我們所做的,都是為了下一代」的核心價值。2016年蔡英文總統到訪春池玻璃,走了一圈,她也有感地說:「簡單的『循環經濟』4個字,有人用一輩子實現。」

循著春池玻璃的一路歷程,我們看見這一群人用一輩子實踐循環經濟,讓廢棄玻璃有了春天,並用創新將台灣帶上國際舞台,也讓我們瞧見台灣永續的未來。

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英文

Spring Pool Glass

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Phil Newell

Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development uses the rate of recycling and reuse of waste glass as an indicator of a country’s competitiveness. This is because re­cyc­ling glass is very difficult, and the price of recycled glass is low, meaning that if a country does glass re­cyc­ling well, re­cyc­ling of other materials should be no problem. T.A. Wu, executive assistant to the chairman of Spring Pool Glass, explains right up front the significance of the glass recycling rate.

Taiwan’s glass re­cyc­ling rate is the second highest in the world, behind only Sweden. As Taiwan’s largest glass re­cyc­ler, Spring Pool Glass re­cyc­les about 100,000 metric tons of glass per year, accounting for 70% of all glass re­cycled in Taiwan. The reduction in carbon emissions is equivalent to creating some 500 Da’an Parks. In a business in which profits are not high, throughout the nearly 60 years of its existence Spring Pool has devoted itself to one task—re­cyc­ling and putting into practice the circular economy.


 

Opening up the valve of a blowtorch, T.A. Wu, execut­ive assistant to the chairman of Spring Pool Glass, directs a blue flame of 800 °C toward a “green” building material the company has newly developed, the AH Lightweight Insulation Block. Even after applying the fire to the block for several minutes, there is no smoke whatsoever, and no burn marks on the surface. Moreover, the other side of the block is still cool to the touch. The material’s fire resistance and thermal insulation properties are amazing.

Low margins drive innovation

Going from a traditional re­cyc­ling business to developing the world’s first green building material whose raw material is flat-panel display glass, Spring Pool’s creative transformation in recent years has been truly astonishing. But as they have moved from glass recycling into industrial raw materials, high-tech building materials, culture and arts, as well as opening one of their factories to tourists, “our innovations in fact have been forced on us by the larger environment,” says T.A. Wu.

Wu’s father, company chairman Wu Chun-chi, has been involved in glass-related businesses for over 50 years. He began as an apprentice in a glass factory at age 13, learning the mix of materials for manufacturing glass, and later moved into recycling waste glass. But the profit from glass recycling is very low, with the price of one kilo­gram of recycled glass being only a few tenths of an NT dollar, so that unless you operate on a large scale, there is virtually no profit to speak of. So Wu Chun-chi gradually grew the size of his operation, developing from a collection round using a single small truck to what is now Taiwan’s largest glass recycling business.

But as the company grew, the varieties of glass taken in by Spring Pool grew ever more diverse, with volume multiplying many times over, which also made their inventory risk ever greater. “In recycling, the greatest pressure comes from unsaleable inventory.” T.A. Wu raises a case in point: A decade or so ago, demand for container glass in the market dropped sharply, and the company’s growing stock of container glass became a burden. At that time Wu Chun-chi developed waste container glass into a green building material called “glass stone,” adding another material for traditional terrazzo and helping to create a new market for waste glass.

Insulation blocks

Having overcome the first crisis through successful innovation, the next danger followed right behind. Taiwan is a major producer of consumer electronics, and every year generates large amounts of display panel glass that must be re­cyc­led. This type of glass has a higher melting point than other glass, meaning more energy is needed to melt down, yet it is difficult to use after recycling. However, T.A. Wu thought outside the box, realizing that a high melting point ­indicates that it should be suitable for making fire-resistant building material. So he applied the technology that he had developed as a student for making insulative foamed glass blocks, and after various trials and adjustments at the factory, finally succeeded in mass-­producing blocks from foamed display panel glass.

Wu explains the principle behind the energy-saving blocks. After display panel glass is ground into a powder, it is mixed with concrete, and then undergoes a foaming process, which fills the material with small pores that block both heat and sound.

The environmentally friendly energy-saving blocks are fire-resistant, sound insulating, heat insulating, vibration absorbing, non-toxic and lightweight, giving them a very high market potential.

Spring Pool’s energy-saving blocks were used as early as 2014 by the UNICODE team at National ­Chiao Tung University in the design of their Orchid House, which took the Prize for Urbanism, Transport and Affordability at that year’s Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles, France.

The energy-saving blocks went into mass production in 2013, and have received certification as Fire Retardant Grade 1 from the Taiwan Accreditation Foundation and for two-hour fire-resistance from the Ministry of the Interior, as well as two-hour fire-resistance certification and a green building material label from TÜV SÜD in Singapore. T.A. Wu is steadily preparing to take Spring Pool’s insulation blocks international, to show Taiwan’s re­cycl­ing creativity to the world.

The W Glass Project

In 2017, T.A. Wu launched the “W Glass ­Project.”

Wu studied resources engineering at National ­Cheng Kung University, and then went to the University of Cambridge in Britain to earn a degree in industrial management. After returning to Taiwan, he first went to work for the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and only later returned home to work in his father’s firm. His experience in high-tech industry has taught him that all technologies eventually become “traditional industries,” with the result that the transformation and sustainability of enterprises are issues that must be faced for the future. So where is the future of Spring Pool? Perhaps one answer can be found in the notion of the “circular economy” implicit in the “W Glass Project” that Wu proposed.

“W stands for my father’s name ‘Wu,’ and also for ‘waste,’ but its most important meaning is wu in the sense of ‘not having.’” This is because the W Glass Project has no limits. Anything with re­cyc­l­ing as the core concept that makes use of Spring Pool’s recycled glass and the craftsmanship of its glass masters, along with cross-disciplinary co­operation with outside designers, can be incorporated into the W Glass Project.

For the “Circular Economy Ocean” displayed at the 2017 Creative Expo Taiwan, 40 metric tons of re­cycled glass was used to form a glass “sea,” and visitors were invited to take off their shoes and wade in to experience the tactile sensation. At the Bei­tou Cooling Summer Festival in July, handmade water bells blown from re­cycled glass floated in a hot springs pool inside the Bei­tou Hot Spring Museum, and the bright sound they made by bumping into one another as they floated let people enjoy the feeling of a summer day with both auditory and visual senses. Or there is the “Darts by André” tableware set, made in collaboration with André ­Chiang: all the items are made from recycled glass, while the mats to go under the dishes are made from the wood of oaken whiskey barrels retired from service. Each project allows recycled glass to appear in daily life in different forms, becoming part of the daily routine.

Does this sound like a case of a business at the end of the industrial value chain taking the initiative to create demand at the head of the chain?

That’s right. “The circular economy should produce value at the end of the chain if we are to close the circle,” says T.A. Wu. He uses the concept of “circularity” to work with people from different fields and create opportunities for recycled glass. For example, for the small glass bottles shaped to fit snugly in the hand made in cooperation with the singer JJ Lin, the constantly growing number of advance orders from fans quietly drove the project along. For the “143 single-mouthful beer glass” project, the public were encouraged to interact with frontline recycling workers, express their thanks, take photos and check in on Facebook. In exchange they could receive a 143-milliliter beer glass manufactured by Spring Pool from re­cycled glass; this project got a great response.

People from the world of design have also taken the initiative to seek out cooperation with Spring Pool. Hong Kong designer Niko ­Leung originally worked mainly with ceramics, but she discovered that the waste materials produced in the firing of ceramics are not re­cyc­lable, causing a waste of resources. After a friend introduced her to Spring Pool Glass, she found out that glass can be 100% re­cycled, making it more environmentally friendly than ceramics. The old master craftspeople at Spring Pool, with their consummate skills, blow re­cycled glass into works that ­Leung designs. Any failed products can be re­cycled completely, eliminating the concerns she felt.

Practicing the circular economy

At Spring Pool’s tourist factory, the workspace for glass blowing retains the pattern of 50 years ago, and you can see glass masters with decades of experience. “I am most worried about how to transmit the skills of these masters to the next generation,” says T.A. Wu. “Other processes can be automated, but not this, because this is culture, and it depends on knowledge and skills built up over time.” Wu says with heartfelt sincerity: “The W Glass Project aims to compensate for this aspect. Through cross-disciplinary cooperation and creating market demand, we will enable these masters to find heirs to their craft, so that it can be passed down to the next generation.”

“The W Glass Project ultimately may become something that grows organically,” says Wu. With continual innovation from all kinds of collaborative projects, Spring Pool will simply play the role of a facilitator, enabling the concepts of closed loops and sustainability to circulate in society and have an impact.

How will the W Glass Project develop in the future? Wu says he doesn’t know. “The only thing that is certain is that glass recycling will not disappear.” He adds: “Perhaps there is no need for Spring Pool to establish its own brand, but rather we can work with many people in different sectors, and allow each cross-disciplinary col­labora­tion to become its own independent brand. Perhaps Spring Pool doesn’t need to establish its own marketing channels—it’s fine if everyone knows that products are part of closed loop, with ‘Spring Pool inside.’”

Even more W Glass Project projects are being promoted in 2018, and it is exciting merely to think about the boundless possibilities for the future. But behind all of these amazingly cool collaborative projects, there is Spring Pool’s philosophy of “doing one’s own business as well as possible.” It is a core value, written on Spring Pool’s webpage, that “everything we do is for the next generation.” When President Tsai Ing-wen visited Spring Pool Glass in 2016, after a walkthrough she said with feeling: “These are just two simple words, ‘circular economy,’ but some people spend their entire lives putting them into practice.”

Following the path pursued by Spring Pool, we do indeed see a group of people who are devoting their lives to putting the circular economy into practice, giving waste glass a new lease on life, and using creativity to carry Taiwan onto the international stage, while also allowing us to see Taiwan’s sustainable future.

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