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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 and Waste Plastics from Industries
Name of recycler PRTEC
Location Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture
Name of eco industrial park Toyama City Eco-Town Industrial Park
Receiving waste materials for recycling - Separately collected waste plastic containers and packaging from households
- Waste plastics from industries
Recycled products/recovered materials - Polypropylene (PP)/Polyethylene (PE) flakes
- Polypropylene (PP)/Polyethylene (PE) recycled pellets
- Polystyrene (PS) recycled pellets
- Refuse paper & plastic fuel (RPF) 


PP/PE flakes


PP/PE pellets, PS pellets


RPF
Capacity of recycling plant 19,400 t/year
Area of recycling plant 15,078 m2
Number of employees in recycling plant 51 (as of April 2010)
Start of recycling operation April 2003
Technical description Waste plastics separately collected from households and plants are processed into plastic materials.



Recycling process

The recycling process consists mainly of the pre-treatment process, separation process, crushing/shredding/washing process, and production process.

  • Pre-treatment process (which is equivalent to "intermediate processing" as defined in the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law of Japan)
    Foreign matter is removed from waste plastics by manual and magnetic separation. Waste plastics suitable for recycling are manually separated based on the sorting criteria set forth in the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law of Japan, and are then compressed/packaged.
  • Separation process
    First, solids and dust are removed with a rotary drum screen. Then, wood, paper, aluminum, fiber, dirty plastics, etc. are removed by manual separation. Later, waste plastics are separated into three types (i.e., PP/PE, PS, and other) by optical separation using near-infrared spectroscopy.
  • Crushing/shredding process, washing process
    First, plastics are shredded in the crusher/shredder. Then, stains and foreign matter is removed in the washer/dehydrator, and PET/PS are accurately separated from PP/PE with gravity separation. The materials are fed into the washer/dehydrator again to remove moisture.
  • Production process
    Crushed/shredded plastics are separated into fluff and flakes by air separation. Fluff is heated in the pelletizer and turned into pellets before being shipped as plastic materials. Flakes are shipped as plastic materials without processing.
Recycling ratio
- The company recovers and processes 50% of waste plastics received into flakes and pellets (PP/PE: 35-40%, PS: 10-15%), which are sold as raw materials for recycled plastic products (including plastic bags, plastic sheets, and plastic containers).

- The remaining 50% is processed into solid fuel (RPF) by another company which is also located in the Eco-Town Industrial Park.
Background of starting recycling business and participating in eco-town program
  • Needs for stimulating the local economy
    City council members took the initiative to explore and attract new industries, in an effort to stimulate the local economy and create jobs.
  • Initiatives of local government
    The Toyama City Government was actively attracting recyclers based on its eco-town program.
  • Enforcement of recycling law
    With the enforcement of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law (national law), it was expected that sufficient volume of recyclable waste plastics could be collected and the waste plastic recycling business would be economically viable.
  • Initiatives of a leading local company
    Hokuriku Electric Power Company, a leading company in the area and which is highly interested in environmental protection, provided part of the capital investment required to establish the recycling company.
  • Securing buyers for recycled products
    An existing plastic processing company located in the same area participated in establishing the recycling company, and was ready to recycle the recovered plastic materials.
Fund procurement
  • The initial investment cost was about JPY1.4 billion. The company received subsidies from the national government, the Toyama Prefectural Government, and the City of Toyama (50% from the national government, 1% from the City of Toyama, and 10% in industrial promotion subsidies from the Toyama Prefectural Government and the City of Toyama).
  • The technology R&D cost was financed in-house.
  • In four years, the company eliminated the carried-forward loss and produced a surplus in the current account balance.
Major success factors
  • Technology improvement
    At first, they employed conventional recycling technologies. Through trial and error, the company was able to improve the facility so that the collected waste plastics can be properly handled depending on their properties.
  • Sale of recycled products
    - The company was able to sell all of the recovered plastic materials to the existing plastic processing company.
    - Private companies took the initiative to reduce CO2 emissions, which led to increased use of solid fuel (RPF) by private companies. 
Issues and Challenges
  • Mixing of foreign matter in waste plastics
    At the start of operations, it was found that the recycling equipment was not appropriate for handling waste plastics from households, and that recyclable waste plastics also included a lot of dirty waste plastics and non-plastic waste. Thus, manual separation and washing processes had to be added. The plant premises became filled with waste plastics, and the recycling ratio was low.
    → Additional investments were made to add separation and washing processes, etc. and improve the equipment.
    → Subsequently, additional investments were made to increase the efficiency of equipment operations and cut labor costs.
    → Recycling companies worked to raise citizens' awareness about the importance of waste separation by hosting recycling plant tours and giving away recycled bags, etc.
Future prospects
  • With the number of waste plastics recycling companies increasing, the challenge is to secure waste plastics (i.e., raw materials)
Remarks
  • Manual separation achieves higher separation (PP/PE, PS, and other) accuracy than optical separators. However, optical separators were introduced because the labor costs required for manual separation are high in Japan. Manual separation may be viable if labor costs are low.
  • In launching a recycling business, it is important to (i) consider technological elements and (ii) design the business framework (including investment). 

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