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

Data Entry: November 2011
Name of local government Akita Prefectural Government
Department in charge of eco-town program Department of Resources, Energy and Industry, Division of Industry and Labor
Approval of eco-town plan November 1999
Revised: January 2003 and October 2004
Target area of eco-town program Northern Part of Akita Prefecture 4,399.43 km2
Locations of waste recycling facilities Northern Part of Akita Prefecture
Waste recycling facilities
  • Recycling of used home appliances
    • Used refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, clothes dryers, air conditioners, TV sets (which are all required to be collected under the Law for the Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances in Japan; in short, the "Home Appliance Recycling Law"), PCs, and office equipment are collected from Akita Prefecture and two neighboring prefectures, and disassembled to recover glass, plastics, steel materials, and aluminum, as well as circuit boards and motors, etc.
    • Collected circuit boards, etc. are used to recover valuable metals (e.g., gold, silver, copper, and lead) as raw materials.
    • CFCs contained in insulation materials of refrigerators are also recovered and decomposed.
  • Recovery of nonferrous metals
    • Valuable metals (e.g., gold, silver, copper, and lead) are recovered from circuit boards of used home appliances, personal computers, office equipment, etc. (plastics with low content of nonferrous metals) and automobile shredder residue (ASR).
  • Manufacture of construction materials from waste plastics and wood waste
    • Wood waste (e.g., forest thinnings generated from forestry, wood chips from the wood processing industry, wood waste from dismantled houses) and waste plastics (e.g., used agricultural films, waste containers and packaging, scrap materials from plastic products factories) are formed and processed to manufacture construction materials for window frames, doors, floor materials, wood decks, benches, etc.
  • Manufacture of recycled plastic products from coal ash and waste plastics
    • Coal ash (fly ash) generated from coal-powered thermal power plants and waste plastics (e.g., waste containers and packaging as well as waste plastics generated from plants that manufacture recycled products) are ground, mixed, and solidified to manufacture recycled plastic construction materials (e.g., plastic drain boxes and plastic gutters) by extrusion forming.
  • Production of compost from food waste and chicken droppings
    • Food waste generated from supermarkets/school lunch suppliers and chicken droppings generated from poultry farms are used as raw materials to produce compost. Rice hulls are used as moisture-control materials.
    • Efforts have been made to establish recycling-based agriculture by utilizing waste generated from the livestock, food processing, and rice farming industries.
  • Separation of glass bottles, cans, and PET bottles
Background of starting eco-town program
  • Needs to revitalize the local economy
    • The northern part of Akita Prefecture (Northern Akita) developed as one of the largest mining areas in Japan, producing copper, zinc, and lead, among others. Due to the sharp appreciation of the yen after 1985, however, metals produced in Japan were no longer price competitive against imported metals and therefore the mining industry in Northern Akita declined. By 1994, all the mines in the prefecture had closed down.
    • Forestry was once a booming industry in Northern Akita. However, lumber produced in Japan had lost its price competitiveness against inexpensive imported lumber, and forestry was also on the decline.
    • Under these circumstances, Akita Prefectural Government faced an urgent need to create new industries in place of forestry and mining and thereby create jobs.
  • Shortage of waste disposal sites across Japan
    • Across Japan, there was a shortage of waste disposal sites due to increased emissions of industrial waste. Thus, the demand for waste recycling was expected to grow.
  • A hub of mining-related technologies and facilities
    • Northern Akita was a hub of mining-related technologies and facilities for ore dressing and smelting, and these technologies and facilities could be used to recover nonferrous metals from waste. Meanwhile, the existing network of mining-related companies made it easy to solicit participation and cooperation from various companies in launching new recycling businesses.
  • Enforcement of recycling laws
    • The Home Appliance Recycling Law and other national laws on recycling were enforced, which laid the foundation for developing waste recycling as a business.
  • A framework for the eco-town program created by the national government
    • In 1997, the framework for the eco-town program initiated by the national government was created by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of the Environment to grant national government subsidies to local governments for carrying out recycling efforts.
Basic concepts for eco-town development Creation of an environmentally friendly society in harmonious coexistence with the rich natural environment
  • To curb and reduce waste generation, and recycle waste
  • To create new industries by utilizing the local mining-related infrastructure
  • To create new resource recycling industries through collaboration among local industries
  • To introduce new energy industries
Programs for promoting eco-town development
  • Programs for promoting recycling of home appliances on a commercial basis
    • Conducting demonstrations of recycling home appliances prior to their recycling on a commercial basis, to help solve problems in the recycling processes (including collection, transportation, disassembly/decomposition/processing, and detoxification)
    • Conducting surveys and research projects to establish a collection system (which is a challenge for municipal governments) for recycling home appliances
    • Building collection systems in respective municipalities to establish a home appliances recycling system through a collaboration between Akita Prefecture and two neighboring prefectures
  • Programs for building consensus toward establishing a resource recycling society
    • Hosting symposia and exhibitions about the eco-town program and environment/recycling to build consensus among residents toward a recycling society, increase residents' understanding, and solicit active participation
    • Organizing various PR campaigns to promote waste reduction and recycling via collaboration among municipalities
  • Feasibility studies on the manufacture of construction materials from waste plastics and wood waste on a commercial basis
    • Conducting feasibility studies on the use of wood waste (generated from forestry and lumber industry, which are major industries in Northern Akita) and waste plastics (generated from home appliances recycling factories and plastic products factories, etc.) as raw materials to manufacture new construction materials, etc. on a commercial basis
Major success factors
  • Utilizing existing mining-related technologies and human resources in the region
    • Northern Akita was home to many companies with mining-related technologies (i.e., ore dressing and smelting). The existing technologies and facilities owned by these companies were fully utilized for various waste recycling solutions including recovering nonferrous metals from waste, thus creating new industries.
  • Utilizing locally available natural resources and waste
    • While Northern Akita produces natural resources such as zeolite, diatomite, pearlite, and pumice, the region also generates a large amount of waste, including wood waste from forestry and lumber industry, coal ash from coal-powered thermal power plants, and waste plastics from agriculture. The utilization of natural resources in combination with waste enabled the creation of new industries, beyond mere waste processing.
  • Leadership taken by the local government
    • The industry promotion department of the prefectural government was actively involved in establishing new recyclers, serving as an intermediary between companies, promoting sales of recycled products, and assisting coordination with local residents, among others.
    • The environmental department (which implements the prefectural government's plan for establishing a recycling society) and the industry promotion department (which implements the eco-town program) worked together to promote their respective policy approaches.
    • The governor made a public pledge to establish a recycling society, and actively visited companies and field sites. In a conference with governors of neighboring prefectures, the governor also made a proposal regarding a used home appliances collection system, and obtained consensus.
    • Prefectural assemblymen formed a league focused on the environment and recycling, and requested the national government to extend support.
  • Securing sales channels for recycled products by using the existing network of companies
    • In the existing lumber and mining industries and relevant industries, business connections and partnerships already existed among various companies in the prefecture. These networks were effectively used to secure sales channels for recycled products including dismantled and sorted materials and parts. Buyers of many recycled products were found both in and outside the prefecture.
      Increasing residents' understanding and awareness
    • The prefectural government and municipal governments worked together to host symposia in different parts of the prefecture, and to help residents and companies understand the objective of the eco-town program and raise their awareness about the environment and recycling.
  • Mutual trust between existing local companies and local residents
    • In many cases, new recycling businesses were launched by existing local companies or established via joint investment by existing local companies. In some cases, mutual trust built between local companies and local residents helped in starting new recycling businesses.
Unique efforts and initiatives for eco-town development
  • Industrial waste disposal tax and environmental protection charge
    • In 2004, Akita Prefectural Government launched an industrial waste disposal tax system and an environmental protection charge system to curb generation and encourage proper processing/recycling of industrial waste.
    • Under the industrial waste disposal tax system, a tax of JPY1,000/ton is imposed on industrial waste transported to waste disposal sites in the prefecture.
    • Under the environmental protection charge system, a tax of JPY50-500/ton is imposed on industrial waste transported from outside the prefecture to waste disposal sites, waste intermediate processing facilities, and waste recycling facilities in the prefecture.
    • The industrial waste disposal tax and environmental protection charge are used to cover the costs of programs, surveys, R&D, awareness campaigns, etc. to support companies that work to curb generation and reduce/recycle industrial waste.
  • Granting subsidies
    • Akita Prefectural Government grants subsidies for the following activities. The subsidies are funded by the industrial waste disposal tax and general revenues.
      1. Programs to install equipment in the prefecture for reusing/recycling waste and recovering thermal energy
      2. Experiment and research regarding programs for reusing/recycling waste and recovering thermal energy
      3. Participation in events (including eco exhibitions and trade fairs) for establishing a recycling society, to exhibit recycled products (manufactured by own companies) for commercial purposes
      4. Sales promotion surveys, quality tests, design development activities, and promotional ads for recycled products that are or will be manufactured
      5. Awareness campaigns regarding eco industries that use equipment for reusing/recycling industrial waste and recovering thermal energy
      6. Outsourcing surveys to specialized institutions to better recycle and curb emissions of industrial waste generated in the prefecture
      7. Efforts to build a recycling system through collaboration among companies, to better recycle and curb emissions of industrial waste generated in the prefecture
  • Collaboration with R&D institutions
    • Collaboration between R&D institutions (e.g., the Faculty of Engineering and Resource Science, Akita University; Akita Prefectural University; the Institute for Mining Research and Studies; the Institute of Wood Technology, Akita Prefectural University) and local governments/companies has been promoted to create new industries related to recycling.
Future prospects Under the eco-town program, Akita Prefectural Government plans to conduct the following activities:
  • Recycling used small home appliances, etc.
    • In Japan, the Home Appliance Recycling Law requires the collection of used TV sets, washing machines, refrigerators, and air conditioners. In many cases, other used home appliances are processed/disposed of as municipal solid waste. However, a high proportion of small electronic devices such as mobile phones and digital cameras contain rare metals and other scarce resources.
    • With a track record of resource recycling by utilizing mining technologies, etc. and necessary facilities already in place, etc., Northern Akita has a suitable environment for recovering rare metals on a commercial basis.
    • Akita Prefectural Government therefore launched a program in 2006 to collect used small electronic devices (25 cm x 15 cm or smaller) and recover rare metals and other metal resources.
      2006: Test collection commenced in one city (Odate City).
      2007: Test collection implemented in seven cities and towns.
      2008: Test collection commenced in all municipalities.
  • Promoting tourism in connection with eco industries
    • While Northern Akita is a hub of eco industries and recycling industries that take advantage of mining technologies, the region also has many tourist attractions (e.g., nature, spa, food culture) and modern industrial heritages (e.g., mining-related facilities).
    • In 2006, local eco-related businesses, tourism-related entities, and local governments started to present new models of tourism (enabling tourists to learn about a society in harmonious coexistence with the environment) and to develop programs for educational tours (involving environmental education) by taking advantage of the region's various features.
    • Promoting tourism in connection with eco industries will help increase public recognition of Akita Prefecture and improve its image as a pioneer in environment and recycling, improve environmental education, and revitalize the local economy.
    • The following efforts have been made to promote tourism in connection with eco industries:
      • Setting up an information desk to accept visitors to environmental facilities/waste recycling facilities, coordinating with companies, and distributing information
      • Offering training programs for eco industry tour guides, and preparing guide manuals and safety/security manuals
      • Developing experience-based learning programs, and preparing supplementary readers and educational DVDs for educational tours
      • Taking advantage of the region's features (e.g., nature, spa, food culture), and organizing experimental tours to solicit opinions
  • Creating and promoting eco industries/recycling industries across the prefecture
    • To stimulate the overall eco industries across the prefecture, various existing support frameworks implemented by Akita Prefectural Government are used to share the accomplishments of the Northern Akita's eco-town program across the prefecture and create/promote novel and unique recycling businesses, thereby creating jobs in the prefecture and increasing local citizens' income.
    • The prefectural government has engaged in the following to create and promote eco industries and recycling industries across the prefecture:
      • Providing information to, and collecting information from, municipal governments and regional development bureaus of the prefectural government regarding the environment and recycling
      • Assisting companies via collaboration between municipal governments and regional development bureaus
      • Assisting companies regarding environmental/recycling technologies, marketing, procurement of recycled raw materials, sales channels for recycled products, etc.
      • Conducting surveys on companies' challenges and needs in waste processing and recycling
      • Assisting business-matching between businesses that generate waste and recyclers
      • Helping to build an industry-academia-government network for recycling
  • Promoting recycling businesses via interaction with Southeast Asian countries
    • As a hub of eco industries and recycling industries, Akita Prefecture is home to an array of environmental and recycling technologies and eco-town expertise.
    • In FY2009, Akita Prefectural Government started to work with the national government to share the environmental/recycling technologies and eco-town expertise developed in the prefecture with Southeast Asian countries, to help these countries build resource recycling systems. This project is also intended to help companies in the prefecture create and expand new environmental and recycling businesses.

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