Project description

Taiwanese government has claimed it does the recycling for the public well, and the household recycling rate is as high as 58%. However, we doubt that some of the recyclable wastes are not handled with properly after being collected by the government recycling trucks.

To reveal to the public where these recyclable wastes go, our team has launched an exclusive investigation in three northern cities, including Taipei, New Taipei City, and Taoyuan, by secretly stuffing nine GPS trackers into nine recyclable wastes. Three kinds of materials are our main focus: waste paper, waste paper container, and waste plastic bottle. Then, we start to follow the routes of those GPS devices closely.

First, by observing the GPS locations of those trackers, we discover that a waste paper container collected in Taipei ended up in an illegal recycle site in Taoyuan. The site is in a farmland, which is forbidden to build factory or dumpsite. Furthermore, it is close to 12 petroleum finery plants, so it would be very dangerous if fire accident happens.

Second, we also found that three recyclable wastes collected in New Taipei City were taken to an illegal site before transferring to other legal sites. Because these sites are unregistered, so the authority is not able to know how the wastes are handled with. It possible that some recyclable wasted have already been dumped or burned in the illegal sites.

Our investigative feature has revealed the secrets of Taiwanese recycling system, arousing public awareness about this issue, and forced the government to admit the mistakes and promise to strengthen the regulation. Many readers have praised our feature as an example of \”professional investigative report.\”

What makes this project innovative?

First of all, We have produced an interactive digital website for the feature story. On the site, we show the flows of different recyclable wastes by combining the GPS location routes with Google map. On this map, the trucks ”move” and clearly show where the recyclable materials go. By reading the map, texts, pictures and videos, the readers could quickly understand the routes. In other words, the visualization of data is very successful. Second, we are the first Taiwanese media that tracks the flows of recyclable wastes by using GPS tracking devises. Before our report, there is no media company, environmental NGO or government agency doing the same thing. Third, besides using traditional filming equipments, we also flew drone to shot shocking pictures of the illegal recycling sites in New Taipei City. Finally, in the last part of our website, there is a map consisting of the complete data of recycling sites around Taiwan. It's an interactive map, so readers could search the information on it. Other media companies and environmental groups can also use our data to do further research.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

After the publication, the feature news has been viewed by more than 200 thousand readers. We’ve also got more than 10 thousand “likes” on Facebook. On average, each reader is willing to spend over five minutes browsing our content. More importantly, a lot of readers have interacted with us on social media while appreciating us for providing the useful information. Many of them said that we are courageous to reveal the hidden secrets of recycling business. After our feature news went online, the general public has questioned the government about this issue, and the latter also admitted the mistakes and promised to improve.

Source and methodology

Our methodology combines “data” with “field survey,” which are both very crucial in investigative journalism. We used nine GPS trackers to gather location information by stuffing them inside different recyclable materials. The tracking system constantly shows the real-time GPS information on our computer or mobile phones screen. It updates every 10 seconds. As a result, we could go out to “tail” the wastes as soon as we found anything suspicious. We would grab our cameras and drive our cars to follow the trucks carrying the “target wastes.” Or, we would visit the suspicious recycling sites directly to check their legitimacy.

Technologies Used

Real-time GPS tracking system. Mapbox. HTML CSS JavaScript.

Project members

Po Chun Ho, journalist. Liang Ju Hou, journalist. Yi Jing Wu, journalist. Wei Chou Chen, journalist. Ting Jen Chen, journalist. Huan Cheng Lin, journalist. Charles Wang, visual designer. Kristi Hu, visual designer. King Hsueh, visual designer. Tiffany Keng, engineer.

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