Recycling Programs The Tzu Chi Way

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Reduce Reuse Recycle

The Taiwan-based Tzu Chi Foundation has been implementing its recycling programs very effectively and successfully, and its programs are rapidly spreading across the world. This article explains how Tzu Chi is so successful in organizing thousands of recycling centers around the world.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”; this is the international slogan to save the world. Are we doing enough to reduce wastage and pollution to protect Mother Earth? The main culprit causing global warming is pollution. Global warming leads to extreme climate change causing unprecedented draughts, floods, typhoons and tsunamis. Pollution is man-made and therefore controllable. The increase in greenhouse gases which cause global rise in temperature is due to haphazard and uncontrolled human industrial activities. So the target to control pollution is to inculcate responsible industrial activities. At the bottom level of these chained reactions of “production-consumption-pollution” is the disposal of waste materials. It is at this bottom level that the idea of recycling was conceived.

What Is Tzu Chi Foundation

The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation is well-known throughout the world for its fast and effective relief work during major disasters throughout the world. This international relief organization is called “Tzu Chi” for short. Its main mission is to alleviate people's sufferings across the globe irrespective of faiths, beliefs, and what not, without expecting anything in return except smiles. To know more about this incredible organization, please click on the link at the end of this article. As for this article, let us focus on how Tzu Chi is so successful in organizing and operating its thousands of recycling centers worldwide.

How Recycling Programs Started In Tzu Chi

In August 1990, the founder of Tzu Chi, Master Cheng Yen delivered a lecture in Taichung City, Central Taiwan. At the end of that lecture there was a hearty applaud from the audience. Then the Master in her usual amiable manner suggested that the audience help to keep the city clean and unpolluted by using their hands that were clapping, to start doing recycling work to protect Mother Earth. From that appeal by the Master, Tzu Chi has come a long way in these 25 years overseeing and operating recycling programs throughout the world. In Taiwan alone, Tzu Chi now operates more than 5,000 recycling centers, with tens of thousands of workers. And the most outstanding feature of Tzu Chi recycling programs is in the nature of its manpower. At the starting points of the recycling operations at all the Tzu Chi recycling centers, one will witness the great proportion of grassroot elderly volunteers earnestly and enthusiastically concentrating on their work. Yes, all Tzu Chi recycling workers are volunteers, and many are elderlies, even reaching 90 years old! How could this be possible? Unbelievable this may seem, but wait till you read further to understand why such feats are possible.

The Master, The Steering Force

How did Tzu Chi do it in such an astonishing manner? Credit goes to none other than the Founder Master herself. To understand the Master will reveal how Tzu Chi is so successful in everything it does. Master Cheng Yen is the charismatic founder of Tzu Chi. With her signature graceful demeanour and her soft spoken voice, she has been the driving force of Tzu Chi activities since its inception in 1966 in Taiwan, fifty years ago. With her down-to-earth spiritual guidance, millions of her followers have given their full support to her charity work, both in manpower and funding. To know more about her and Tzu Chi, please click on the link at the end of this article.

Tzu Chi Community Recycling Program

In the recycling centers island wide, elderly volunteers use their retirement wisely, to help the Earth and to enjoy the company of one another.
In the recycling centers island wide, elderly volunteers use their retirement wisely, to help the Earth and to enjoy the company of one another. | Source

Products From Recycled Materials

These products sold by Tzu Chi Foundation were all recycled from PET bottles.
These products sold by Tzu Chi Foundation were all recycled from PET bottles. | Source
The blankets are made by the recycled plastic bottles.
The blankets are made by the recycled plastic bottles. | Source

Author Good Guy wearing pants made from 40% recycled material

Author Good Guy wearing pants made from 40% recycled PET bottles.
Author Good Guy wearing pants made from 40% recycled PET bottles. | Source

Recycling The Tzu Chi Way.

All across the world where you see Tzu Chi recycling centers, there is this interesting scenario where all the workers are volunteers and many are elderly. This is specially so in Taiwan, where people past their prime are happily working away daily in the recycling centers voluntarily without pay. These elderly volunteers are responding to the Master’s clarion call to participate in “the fertile ground for spiritual cultivation”. The Master likened recycling work to the Buddhist concept of “rebirth”, turning waste materials into useful products. At the same time reduce wastage and reduce pollution. making the world a greener and a more pleasant place to live in.

Anyone is able to contribute to recycling activities. Who doesn’t know how to separate pieces of paper or flattening plastic bottles? Now the senior volunteers not only can contribute their effort to save the world, they have also gathered together as social units to keep themselves busy and happy. As the Master repeatedly reminds all volunteers that “recycling work helps the body to be healthy, and the mind to be happy”. In fact, the Taiwanese dialect for recycle is "huan po" which means "turn into treasure"! Hence, there is this wonderful saying in Tzu Chi: “Turn garbage into gold, and gold into loving heart.”

Another beneficial program behind Tzu Chi recycling activities is to help depressed people find solace and fellowship. There are numerous stories of how Tzu Chi volunteers were able to rehabilitate depressed people through participating in its recycling activities. These people were either recovering from serious illnesses or going through difficult personal problems. Through recycling activities, these people have been able to recover from their depression and start living a happier life again.

The recycling centers in a way, have become the best nursing homes for these elderly volunteers as well as rehabilitating centers for recuperating sick or depressed patients! From here, these “special” volunteers can experience their positive contributions to society, reinforcing their sense of usefulness in life and enjoying friendly fellowship while keeping themselves busy.

Tzu Chi's Award Winning Beds for Disaster Relief

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What Has Tzu Chi Achieved In Its Recycling Programs

Tzu Chi recycling activities are enormous in terms of material volume as well as returns in financial term. It is also on a global scale. Let us examine two major aspects of Tzu Chi recycling programs.

First, is the scale of its operations. Tzu Chi recycling programs are now carried out in thousands of recycling centers throughout the world. Tzu Chi has expanded downstream into turning recycling materials into useful products, mostly channelled through disaster reliefs. It even sells its recycled products through its own “Da Ai” stores throughout Taiwan. Given time, it is sure to expand globally. By the way, “Da Ai” in Mandarin Chinese means “Great Love”. The most well-known of all Da Ais is the Da Ai Tv Broadcasting Services of Tzu Chi, transmitting world news and activities of Tzu Chi via satellites across the world, 24 hours a day. In fact, a substantial amount of the proceeds earned through recycling activities is channelled into Da Ai Tv to support its operations.

The second aspect is the production and distribution of useful products from these recycled waste materials. The most significant achievement in Tzu Chi recycling programs is the ability to turn these recycling waste materials into very useful products. Plastic bottles are given “new rebirths” into products that are not only useful but also life-saving as well. End-products manufactured from these recycling materials include blankets, foldable beds, chairs, thermal underwear, t-shirts, jackets, pants, bed sheets, and medical gowns,which are all very relevent to disaster relief work. And best of all, the production of the ubiquitous blue and white uniforms for the Tzu Chi volunteers. There are other products as well such as socks, shoes, bags, suits, bowls and chopsticks, and toys too.

Most of these recycled end-products are for the relief programs where they are distributed to disaster areas worldwide. Just imagine, thousands of blankets and foldable beds being distributed throughout the disaster areas worldwide! And all these originated from “waste” materials, mostly from PET bottles!

At my local Tzu Chi recycle center.
At my local Tzu Chi recycle center. | Source

What You And I Can Do To Contribute To Save Mother Earth

A single bee by itself is virtually useless. But when a million bees come together, it is a world of a difference! When I help in the local Tzu Chi recycling center, I know I am one of the millions contributing my little effort to save Mother Earth. Together we can do it. So let’s start doing our little part to save Mother Earth. Below are four photos showing me busy helping out in my local Tzu Chi recycling center in Penang, Malaysia.

These photos showed me at the station of "greatest" challenge; the first station where raw "wastes and rubbish" were first sorted out, dirty and messy. That's why I was with gloves and wearing a face mask.

That's me at the local Tzu Chi recycling center.

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Tzu Chi Foundation's Products Made From Recycled Bottles

Wonders Of Tzu Chi Recycling Program (The Penang Story, My Home Island)

More About Tzu Chi Foundation

Now that you understand how Tzu Chi can be so successful in its recycling programs, you may want to know more about this remarkable organization and its founder, Master Cheng Yen. Please read my article "Tzu Chi Foundation : Master Cheng Yen".

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