Taipei, Taiwan — Taiwan's DA.AI Technology Co. Ltd. pursues PET bottle recycling from a very Buddhist point of view.
In some ways, the Taipei non-profit operates like any business: It manages a complex supply chain making products from recycled PET, it sells them in retail stores, and has its own in-house research and development department.
But the Buddhism comes in, DA.AI executives say, in what motivates the organization.
Rather than going after profits, thefocus is on charity — supporting its parent organization, the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist disaster relief organization in Taiwan.
DA.AI was started in 2008 by several business executives who are active in Tzu Chi, and today sits at the center of one of Taiwan's largest recycling organizations.
It and Tzu Chi have a network of more than 8,600 recycling centers staffed by tens of thousands of Tzu Chi volunteers, where each year they collect about 60 million PET bottles.
During an interview at the group's headquarters in Taipei and a tour of one of its nearby recycling centers, staff offered a look at how the unusual organization mixes commerce and charity.
DA.AI started for practical reasons — the Tzu Chi Foundation wanted to help clean up litter and garbage in Taiwan and find ways to better use polyester fiber from PET bottles to make blankets for its disaster relief work.
But it's since branched out well past that.
DA.AI started its own research and development division in 2012 to find new uses for recycled PET. It partners with Taiwanese research groups like the Plastics Industry Development Center on new products, such as using bottle caps to make office supplies.