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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 PET Bottles
Name of recycler Hokkaido PET Bottle Recycling Co., Ltd.
Location Sapporo City, Hokkaido Prefecture
Name of eco industrial park Sapporo Recycling Complex 
Receiving waste materials for recycling Waste PET bottles
Recycled products/recovered materials - Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) flakes (PET sheet material)
- Polypropylene (PP) flakes (plastic material)
- Refuse derived fuel (RDF)


PET flakes
Capacity of recycling plant 12,600 t/year
Area of recycling plant 5,744 m2
Number of employees in recycling plant 35
Start of recycling operation July 1999
Technical description Processes waste PET bottles into PET flakes as a material for PET sheets.



Recycling process

The recycling process comprises the following main steps.
  • Removal of foreign matter
    Removes caps, glass debris, dust, soil, sand, etc. with a vibrating screen.
  • Separation of PVC bottles
    Using the difference in x-ray transmittance of PVC and PET, detects and removes PVC bottles.
  • Separation of colored bottles
    Removes colored bottles detected by a high-performance camera.
  • Manual separation
    While transparent PET bottles are suitable for producing PET flakes, other items are separated and removed by hand. Metal detectors are used to detect metals
  • Crushing and shredding
    Crushes and shreds PET bottles (including those with labels and caps) into flakes 8 mm in size or less.
  • Separation of labels
    Using pressurized air, removes shredded labels from crushed and shredded flakes.
  • Washing of flakes
    Separates and removes shredded labels and caps still remaining in PET flakes by specific gravity. This step also cleans PET flakes with water (without using an alkali such as caustic soda).
Recycling ratio
  • Some 80% of received waste PET bottles are recovered as PET flakes and used as a raw material for PET sheets by a company located in the Recycling Complex.
  • The remaining 20% includes PET bottle caps, labels and foreign matter.
  • The company sells PET bottle caps made of polypropylene (PP) as a material for recycled plastic products (cargo pallets, etc.).
  • PET bottle labels are sold as fuel for coke ovens in ironworks and for boilers in papermakers in Hokkaido.
  • Foreign matter, accounting for several percent of the total of PET bottles, is disposed of as industrial waste.
Background of starting recycling business and participating in eco-town program
  • Exploring new business fields and improving organizational competitiveness
    Hokkaido PET Bottle Recycling Co., Ltd. was set up with investment by seven Sapporo-based municipal waste collection companies. They decided to set up a joint recycling business to improve their respective competitiveness since they forecasted that waste collection services alone would not be sufficient for future growth.
  • Enforcement of recycling law
    In 1995, the national Containers and Packaging Recycling Law was enacted, to be enforced in 1997. In response, the seven companies assessed various innovative recycling services and decided to start a business of producing PET flakes from waste PET bottles, which are specified as an item in the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law.
  • Initiatives of local government
    When working to start the business, the Sapporo City Government invited the company to take part in the eco-town program. Moreover, the Sapporo Recycling Complex developed by the Sapporo City Government provided the company with a plot in the Complex.
  • Securing buyers for recycled products
    When the company was looking for buyers of PET flakes, a general trading company which conducts various businesses in Japan and abroad, developed a plan to establish a company to produce PET sheets from PET flakes and build a plant in a plot next to the company's in the Sapporo Recycling Complex. Consequently, the company began the waste PET bottle recycling business in collaboration with the PET sheet production company. 
Fund procurement
  • The initial investment required for the business was JPY766 million, for which the company received a subsidy of JPY372 million from the national government and JPY4 million from the Sapporo City Government.
Major success factors
  • Access to recycling technologies
    The general trading company introduced recycling technologies and a company that had such technologies.
  • Securing waste materials for recycling
    Sapporo is a large city which has been committed to the separate collection of waste. In addition, many local governments in the neighboring areas have been collecting PET bottles separately. Thanks to these efforts, they have been able to collect a considerable amount of waste PET bottles.
  • Securing buyers for recycled products
    From the very outset of the business, the company had a buyer for processed PET flakes.
  • Securing a plant site
    A plot was available for constructing the plant in the Sapporo Recycling Complex developed by the Sapporo City Government. Since the Complex was originally created for waste treatment plants, the company did not need to explain to or consult with local residents about plant construction or operation.
  • Employing a technology eliminating the need for complex waste treatment
    A procedure was chosen for washing PET flakes with water instead of alkali involving the use of caustic soda, thus avoiding complex wastewater treatment thanks to the low pollution load of wastewater from the recycling process.
Issues and Challenges
  • Fund procurement
    It was difficult to obtain bank loans when they started the business, but it became easier when recycling businesses were approved as part of the eco-town program organized by the then Ministry of International Trade and Industry (present Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry).
  • Foreign matter in waste PET bottles
    Soil, sand, glass, metal, liquid, etc. mixed in waste PET bottles can damage the machinery.
Future prospects
  • It has become harder to obtain waste PET bottles as waste PET bottle recycling companies have increased and the export of waste PET bottles to other countries (primarily to China) has increased. This has affected the plant's capacity utilization.
  • Many local governments in Hokkaido choose to recycle collected waste PET bottles domestically rather than to export them.
Remarks
  • The employed recycling technology combines existing techniques and is not particularly advanced.
  • A large part of the recycling process consists of steps to remove foreign matter (glass debris, soil, sand, liquid, dust, knives, PVC bottles, colored bottles, metals, etc.).
  • Simpler technologies could be used, at a lower initial investment, if the PET flake quality requirements (such as flake size and foreign matter ratio) were lower than the present ones.

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