Semiconductor manufacturer United Microelectronics (UMC) has broken ground on its Circular Economy & Recycling Innovation Center at its manufacturing and R&D hub Fab 12A in Tainan, Taiwan.
UMC claims the facility, which costs TWD1.8 billion (about $58.9 million U.S., at current exchange rates), will be the first R&D center in the Southern Taiwan Science Park dedicated to waste recycling and aimed at driving sustainable circular economy in Taiwan. The center is expected to start operations in 2025 and cut 15,000 metric tons of semiconductor manufacturing waste annually.
UMC says the new center will span around 9,000 square meters and will be designed in compliance with green building codes. It will also act as an education center to promote circular economy and environmental protection to the younger generation.
The Circular Economy & Recycling Innovation Center will initially process IC manufacturing waste into products that can be reused or sold, such as turning liquid waste and sludge into industrial-grade products. Waste solvents that cannot be purified will undergo the thermal cracking process to produce fuel gas for reuse within the facility.
The second phase will involve further developing thermal cracking technology that can directly convert waste solvents and plastics into energy supply. The facility is expected to reduce waste from UMC’s Taiwan fabs by one-third and create about TWD100 million worth of value-added products.
“The Circular Economy & Recycling Innovation Center will serve as the center of our efforts to maximize resource recovery and minimize waste,” said SC Chien, UMC’s Co-President and Chief Sustainability Officer. “Working hand in hand with our value chain partners, we believe we can raise the bar for circularity in Taiwan, and enhance our industry’s competitiveness through sustainable practices.”
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Over the years, UMC has made significant investments in various circular economy initiatives, such as promoting resource reuse within its fabs to reduce outsourced waste disposal. By implementing this program, the company expects to cut carbon emissions by around 5,000 tons annually and reduce the need for waste transportation and raw material mining, while also mitigating the risks of transporting waste to external facilities.
Moreover, Fab 12A has recently introduced an electrolysis process that converts copper sulfate liquid waste into copper tubes with resale value. The process is expected to generate more than TWD13 million of revenue per year for UMC.
The company is also working on recycling used photomasks. Under this initiative, photomasks are cleaned on-site to remove patterning and then resold as quartz substrates for optical products.