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Home > NETT21 > Waste Recycling Technologies and Recycling Promotion Initiatives in Eco-towns in Japan

Data Entry: September 2011
Name of recycling technology Recycling of Waste Plastic Containers and Packaging from Households
Name of recycler

Cooperative Association of Municipal Waste Collection Companies in Gifu Prefecture
(Number of member companies: 37)

Location Gifu Prefecture
Name of eco industrial park  -
Receiving waste materials for recycling Separately collected waste plastic containers and packaging from households
Recycled products/recovered materials

- Polypropylene (PP)/polyethylene (PE) flakes
- Refuse plastic fuel (RPF)
- Raw material/fuel for cement production

PP/PE flakes

Capacity of recycling plant 25.4 t/day
Area of recycling plant 14,319 m2
Number of employees in recycling plant 19 (as of April 2010)
Start of recycling operation June 2000
Technical description Waste plastics separately collected from households are processed into plastic materials

Recycling process
The recycling process consists mainly of the following processes:

  • Foreign matter removal process
    First, dust is removed by pneumatic separation; then, metals are removed by magnetic separation; subsequently, wood, paper, fiber, styrene foam, urethane foams, etc. are removed by manual separation. Styrene foam is recovered as a valuable material.
  • Crushing and shredding process
    Separated plastics are crushed/shredded into pieces of about 15 mm by the crusher/shredder
  • Gravity separation process
    Crushed/shredded plastics are first washed with water to remove stains. Then, PET/PS/PVC, metals, sand, etc. (which sink in water because they are heavier) are removed by gravity separation.
  • Centrifugal separation process
    Lighter-than-water plastics recovered by gravity separation are dehydrated and sludge is removed. The recovered plastics are then mixed with water to produce slurry. Plastics of high specific gravity (including PS, PET, and PVC that are not removed by gravity separation) are removed by centrifugal separation, and plastics of low specific gravity (PE and PP) are recovered.
    Almost all of the PS, PET, and PVC removed by gravity separation and centrifugal separation is used as raw materials for refuse plastic fuel (RPF) and raw material/fuel for cement.
  • Thermal volume reduction process
    Friction heat and shear heat are used to turn recovered PP/PE into a semi-molten state and reduce the volume.

Recycling ratio
- About 50% of received waste plastics is recovered as PP/PE flakes, and sold as raw materials for recycled plastic products (such as parking stoppers and cargo pallets).
- About 40% of received waste plastics is recovered as PS/PET/PVC in the separation process. These materials are used as raw materials for refuse plastic fuel (RPF) and raw material/fuel for cement.
- The rest (10%) is disposed of as waste.

Background of starting recycling business and participating in eco-town program
  • Exploring new business fields
    The remaining capacity of waste disposal sites is limited and it is difficult to build new sites, so national and local governments have been taking measures to reduce waste and various national recycling laws have been enacted. As a result, separate collection and recycling was expected to progress and the volume of waste generated to be reduced. As a reduction in the volume of waste generated would affect the business scale of member companies (municipal waste collection companies), the association had to explore and start new businesses.
  • Increasing organizational competitiveness
    A recycling project was initiated that was expected to increase the competitiveness of member companies in tendering for waste collection services.
  • High level of interest in the environment by the top management
    The association's chairman, who was highly interested in environmental issues, demonstrated strong leadership.
  • Enforcement of recycling law
    With the enforcement of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law, a national law, a system was established by which the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association (a designated government affiliated organization) could pay recyclers for the cost of recycling waste plastics.
  • Securing buyers for recycled products
    Through business matching arrangements, the association could identify plastic products manufacturers that would purchase and recycle recovered PP/PE.
Fund procurement
  • The initial investment cost for the site, buildings, and equipment was about JPY500 million, which was financed from different sources including subsidies from national and prefectural governments and contributions from member companies.
Major success factors
  • Applying simple technologies
    Basically, simple technologies (based on specific gravity differences with water) are used to separate PP/PE from PS/PET/PVC.
  • Securing buyers, and achieving a high recycling ratio
    Member companies could sell the mixture of PP and PE recovered as plastic materials. PS/PET/PVC are also recycled as raw materials for refuse plastic fuel (RPF) and raw material/fuel for cement. Thus, the volume of residue that is eventually disposed of as waste could be reduced.
  • Support from local government
    Recycled plastic products manufactured from recovered PP and PE were recognized by the Gifu Prefectural Government as "Gifu Prefecture Authorized Recycled Products."
Issues and Challenges
  • Mixing of dirty waste plastics, non-plastic waste, and hazardous objects and materials
    When the operations started, recyclable waste plastics contained large amounts of dirty waste plastics, non-plastic waste, and hazardous objects and materials including scissors, knives, and glass. Removing such foreign matter required time and labor, as well as modification of equipment. The following measures are taken to help make citizens aware of and understand waste separation:
    - Member companies keep citizens informed about waste separation.
    - Local governments are notified every time hazardous objects and materials are found.
    - Partner companies hold consultations with local governments about the waste separation criteria.
    - The Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association (a government-affiliated organization) publicizes on the Internet the proportions of dirty waste plastics, non-plastic waste, and hazardous objects and materials for respective local governments.
  • Acquisition of management expertise
    The management expertise of others could not be referred to because this was the first project in Japan to recycle waste of plastic containers and packaging. Experience was gained and management expertise was acquired independently.
Future prospects
  • With the increase in the number of waste plastics recycling companies, it has become increasingly difficult to secure waste plastics (raw materials).
  • Glass, styrene foam, and PET bottles are recycled at another plant.
  • Working to build the following system:
    - General waste collection companies (that offer services to maintain good environmental sanitation) work with local governments and citizens to promote material recycling as a priority solution in waste processing.
    - Processing waste into raw materials for recycled products.
    - Companies that have recycling technologies and expertise manufacture recycled products to be used in local communities.
    - Thus, helping local communities build a sound recycling-oriented society.
  • In Japan, labor cost for manual separation is high, so mechanical separators (gravity separators and centrifugal separators) are employed for separating PP/PE from PS/PET/PVC. Centrifugal separators require high initial costs and maintenance costs. If labor costs are low, manual separation can be used as the primary means to reduce the overall costs.
  • It is important to consider how to make citizens aware of and understand waste separation.

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