Global Environment Centre Foundation

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

Data Entry: September 2011
Name of recycling technology Recycling of Used Home Appliances
Name of recycler Nishinihon Kaden Recycle Corporation
Location Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Name of eco industrial park Kitakyushu Environmental Industrial Complex
Receiving waste materials for recycling Used home appliances specified in Japan's Home Appliance Recycling Law (refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, clothes dryers, air conditioners, television sets)
Recycled products/recovered materials

Recovered materials

Recovered from

Recycled as

TV sets
Air conditioners
Refrigerators, freezers
Washing machines, clothes dryers
Glass cullet
      Material for CRTs
Plastic materials
Material for plastic products
Condensed urethane
Blast furnace fuel, road pavement material, etc.
Ferrous materials
Material for steel products
Nonferrous materials
Material for copper products, aluminum products, etc.
Motors
Material for steel/copper products
Compressors
Material for steel/copper products
Heat exchangers
Material for copper products, aluminum products, casting/die-casting material for automobile parts, etc.
Printed circuit boards
Material for precious metals (Au, Ag, Cu, etc.), blast furnace fuel
Deflection yokes
Material for steel products
Electronic beam guns
Material for stainless steel products
Shadow masks
Material for stainless steel products
Capacity of recycling plant 180 t/day (approx. 1 million home appliances per year)
Area of recycling plant  26,344 m2
Number of employees in recycling plant 43
Start of recycling operation April 2000
Technical description Used television sets, washing machines, clothes dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers are dismantled, crushed and shredded, washed, and sorted and separated via a combination of manual and mechanical processes, to recover materials including ferrous, copper, aluminum, plastic, and glass materials.

Recycling process: please refer to the website of Nishinihon Kaden Recycle Corporation:
http://www.nkrc.co.jp/english/index.html

Technological features
  • Crushed materials of casings/outer shells (including washing machines, air conditioners, and refrigerators) contain a mixture of metals and plastics. In the recycling process, such crushed materials are sorted into ferrous, copper, and aluminum materials, as well as light and heavy plastics, with magnetic separators, eddy current separators, optical separators, gravity separators, and pneumatic separators.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) contained in the urethane insulation materials of refrigerators and freezers are separated by heating and volume reduction processes and recovered via adsorption to activated carbon in a closed system.
  • CFC refrigerants used in refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners, and CFCs used in urethane insulation materials are recovered, and destroyed and rendered harmless in CFCs destruction facilities under rigorous management. The recycling process is monitored for leakage of CFCs.
  • Part of CFCs is decomposed in a CFCs destruction system (using radio frequency plasma at high temperatures of about 10,000°C) set up in the recycling plant.
Recycling ratio
As of 2010, 80-85% (by weight) of valuable materials are recovered from used home appliances received.
Background of starting recycling business and participating in eco-town program
  • Initiatives of local government
    - The mayor of Kitakyushu City at that time was enthusiastic about building an environmental model city in Japan.
    - The Kitakyushu City Government was preparing an eco-town program.
  • Enforcement of recycling law
    - The Home Appliance Recycling Law (national law) was in the process of enactment, and so the demand for recycling home appliances was expected to increase.
Fund procurement The initial investment cost was about JPY1.5 billion, about half of which was subsidized by the national government.
Major success factors
  •  Information and knowledge regarding home appliances
    - The company's capital investors are home appliance manufacturers in Japan, so it has information and knowledge regarding home appliances, which it used in designing the recycling process or recycling used products.
  • Securing used home appliances
    - Before launching the recycling business, a survey was conducted which calculated the projected volume of used home appliances that would be collected. After commencement of the business, the company was able to collect more used home appliances than initially projected because of growing awareness about the home appliance recycling system in Japan.
  • Continuous technology improvement and R&D to increase efficiency
    - The company continuously improves equipment and systems in the recycling process to improve the recycling ratio and reduce recycling costs.
    - The company researches and develops new technologies in collaboration with universities and research institutions. This has enabled them to sort out non-ferrous metals (by materials) via optical separation and mixed plastics (by materials) via gravity separation, and use urethane insulation materials of refrigerators as fuel.
    - The company also works with other home appliance recycling plants in developing recycling technologies.
    - The company actively uses suggestions from workers to make improvements.
    - The increased recycling ratio and value of recycled products help stabilize the recycling business.
Issues and Challenges
  • Excessive volume of used home appliances collected compared with processing capacity, and variable collection volume
    - Before launching the recycling business, a survey was conducted to estimate the volume of used home appliances that would be collected. Based on the results, the company set the design processing capacity of the recycling plant at 500,000 units/year.
    - From the second year of the business, the company received more used home appliances than the designed processing capacity, causing a shortage of temporary storage space and forcing it to increase the mechanical and manual processing capacity.
    - The volume of used home appliances generated changes with the season and year, so it is necessary to continuously adjust the processing capacity to meet these changes.
  • Establishment of occupational health and safety management system
    - Used home appliances are mainly dismantled manually. Various machinery and equipment are used in the mechanical processing to crush and shred, wash, sort and separate the materials. In addition, emissions of CFCs and other environmental hazardous materials from the recycling process must be prevented.
    - For this reason, OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety management system) certification was obtained to ensure occupational health and safety, and thoroughly implement the following measures:
    a) Risk reduction activities by all employees
    b) Making protective equipment available, and requiring employees to wear it
    c) Preparing sheets, work manuals, and operation procedures, and ensuring compliance with procedures
Future prospects
  • A higher recycling ratio (the percentage of valuable materials recovered from used home appliances received (by weight)) improves profitability and ensures stable business. Thus, the company has been working to develop recycling technologies to raise the recycling ratio:
    - Technologies to further sort and recycle recovered plastic materials
    - Recovery of rare precious metals
Remarks Preconditions for the used home appliance recycling business:

Business viability
  • It is essential to secure a sufficient volume of used home appliances to ensure the viability of the home appliance recycling business.
  • In Japan, large quantities of used home appliances are generated, which is one factor which contributes to the viability of the recycling business.
  • Viability of the recycling business also requires an established system for collecting used home appliances and transporting them to recycling plants. This collection system needs to be established as a framework by national and local governments.
  • The recycling business must be economically viable. A high recycling ratio (the percentage of valuable materials recovered from used home appliances received (by weight)) helps improve profitability and ensure stable business.
Fundamental requirements of recycling technologies
  • The following are basic considerations when developing home appliance recycling technologies:
    - How to sort out mixtures of various materials
    - How to ensure the quality of sorted materials appropriate for recycling
  • How to remove harmful materials
Smooth operation of the recycling process
  • To continuously ensure smooth processing of used home appliances collected, it is necessary to coordinate equipment maintenance and operation, and to build the capacity of staff and maintenance and operation workers.
Reference: website of Nishinihon Kaden Recycle Corporation
http://www.nkrc.co.jp/english/index.html


Maintained by Global Environment Centre Foundation (GEC)