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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 Kitakyushu City Government
Department in charge of eco-town program Office for Environmental Future City Promotion, Environment Bureau
Approval of eco-town plan July 1997
Revised: September 2002 and October 2004
Target area of eco-town program Whole area of Kitakyushu City 487.89 km2 
Locations of waste recycling facilities

Kitakyushu Environmental Industrial Complex: 25 ha
Hibiki Recycling Complex: 5.9 ha
Practical Research District: 7.9 ha
Hibiki-nada Eastern District (2002-)
Other city areas (2004-)

Waste recycling facilities
  • Kitakyushu Environmental Industrial Complex
    • Processes waste PET bottles into recycled PET pellets or flakes.
    • Recycles used home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, clothes dryers, air conditioners and TV sets).
    • Recycles used office machines (copying machines, facsimiles, printers, PCs, etc.).
    • Recovers auto-parts, steel and other materials from used automobiles.
    • Crushes used fluorescent lamps into cullet and recovers metal materials, mercury and phosphor.
    • Crushes medical waste equipment and supplies, sterilizes them by microwave radiation, and recovers fibers, glass, metal and plastics. Processes fibers into a refuse derived fuel (RDF) and sells it to cement plants. Also sells glass and metal to cement plants as raw materials. Plastics are sold as a raw material for plastic products.
    • Recovers various materials from waste from construction sites, waste plastics and waste plaster boards.
    • Recovers various non-ferrous metals into different material types from radiators, printed circuit boards and insulated copper wires obtained during the recycling of used home appliances and automobiles.
    • Recovers slag and metal (copper raw material) by melting recycling residues, automobile shredder residues and other such industrial waste from eco-town recycling facilities. Moreover, the heat generated from the melting process is used as a power source, and the generated electricity is supplied to recycling facilities in the eco-town.
  • Hibiki Recycling Complex
    • Distills waste cleaning solutions and organic solvents to produce high-purity recycled solutions and solvents.
    • Liquefies waste plastics (PP/PE/PS) to recover recycled diesel oil.
    • Produces a bio diesel fuel, raw materials for cattle feed, coating material, materials for chemicals/cosmetics, and soap materials from waste cooking oil.
    • Processes waste paper into bedding for farm animals.
    • Processes metal waste cans into steel or aluminum pellets which it sells as a metal raw material.
    • Recovers auto-parts, steel and other materials from used automobiles.
  • Hibiki-nada Eastern District - Produces building materials (floor material, handrails, benches, decks, etc.) from waste wood and plastics.
    • Recovers parts, metals and wood materials from gaming machines (pachinko and pachislot machines).
    • Sorts and separates used beverage containers to recover recyclable materials into different material types.
    • Dismantles used vending machines to recover recyclable materials into different material types.
  • Practical Research District
    • Composts food residues from food and other industries, and sells the compost to farmers. Purchases vegetables grown on compost from farmers and sells them to food industries.
    • Processes used expanded polystyrene (EPS) into EPS granules and pellets. Sells them as raw materials for lightweight concrete, lightweight soil and plastic products.
  • Other areas
    • Manufactures toilet paper from various types of waste paper.
    • Produces a foaming slag inhibitor for steelmaking by drying and pelletizing paper sludge from the waste paper recycling process.
    • Promotes the reuse of office equipment.
    • Recovers metal raw materials such as zinc, lead and copper from fly ash from waste melting systems.
  • Research Facilities in Practical Research District
    • AIG Collaborative Research Institute for Resource Recycling and Environmental Pollution Control, Fukuoka University
    • Kitakyushu Environmental Engineering Center, Nippon Steel Engineering Co., Ltd.
    • Eco-Town Collaborative R&D Center for the Environment and Recycling, Kyushu Institute of Technology
    • Hibiki Laboratory, Environmental Technology Service Co., Ltd.
    • Waste Research Institute, Kitakyushu Eco-Town Center
      Many other practical recycling research facilities are located in the Practical Research District.
Background of starting eco-town program
  • Use of existing reclaimed land
    • In the coastal area of Kitakyushu, a huge 2000 ha area of reclaimed land had been developed as an industrial site. However, it remained idle, so the challenge was how to use it efficiently.
  • Shortage of Waste disposal sites
    • Kitakyushu was facing shortage of waste disposal sites for industrial waste, and it was difficult to find a new disposal site due to objections from city residents. Therefore, it was necessary to promote waste recycling to reduce the amount of waste disposal.
  • Needs for revitalizing the local economy
    • In Kitakyushu, existing local heavy industries were on the decline due to economic recession, so it was needed to revitalize the local economy by promoting industry.
  • Wealth of environmental technologies owned by local industries
    • Kitakyushu had a cluster of major Japanese steel, chemical, cement and other manufacturers, which had a wealth of various industrial technologies.
    • In the 1960s, Kitakyushu suffered serious industrial pollution problems. To overcome the problems, local industries built a wealth of techniques and expertise through various efforts to control pollution and improve the environment.
    • Recycling businesses were created by utilizing these existing industrial and pollution control technologies owned by local industries.
  • Existing ideas to develop environmental industries
    • In 1989, an industry-academia-government study group was formed to assess how to use the reclaimed land in the coastal area. The group investigated possible uses of the reclaimed land from various perspectives and drew up a plan to operate novel environmental and recycling industries on the reclaimed land by optimally using the wealth of environmental technologies and expertise of the local businesses.
  • Enforcement of recycling laws
    • Since various national recycling laws were to be enforced, it was expected that a huge amount of recyclable waste would be collected.
  • Development of eco-town program scheme by national government
    • In 1997, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of the Environment established a national eco-town program scheme in order to create a resource recycling society and achieve regional development by promoting environmental industries.
Basic concepts for eco-town development
  • The Kitakyushu City Government operates the Kitakyushu Eco-Town Program as the city's original development policy that integrates environmental protection and industrial promotion. In doing so, the city government actively uses the solid industrial skills of the steel, chemical, cement and other industries as well as human resources, technologies, expertise and the like developed during the process of fighting pollution, with the aim of creating a resource recycling society.
  • The eco-town program implements integrated programs spanning education, basic research, technological/practical research, and commercialization in the environmental field in collaboration with the neighboring Kitakyushu Science and Research Park.
  • Features of Kitakyushu Eco-Town Program
    1) Strong industry-academia-government collaborations for implementing programs
    2) Access to existing nearby industrial cluster and Science and Research Park3) Availability of huge areas of low-cost land
    4) Area-wide waste collection and recycling
    5) Safe and reliable waste processing ensured by collaboration or use by businesses and recycling residue treatment facilities in the eco-town, recycling industries in the city, environmental industry complex and nearby controlled waste disposal site
    6) Disclosing of public information and establishing two-way communications with citizens
    7) Facilitating formalities by setting up a unified contact office at the city government
    8) The city government operates its own subsidy system to support businesses looking for a location.
    9) The city government lends assistance to provide sufficient wastes, or raw materials, and to use the recycled products.
    10) The city government's own subsidy system assists businesses conducting practical research, social systems research and feasibility studies in the environmental field.

Programs for promoting eco-town development
  • Eco-Premium industry creation program (eco-product and eco-service recognition)
    Eco-Premium products, technologies and industrial activities have been selected each year since 2004 among products that are designed for low environmental impact as a new value, to promote environment-friendly business activities. The Kitakyushu City Government helps to advertise the selected products and services.
  • Eco-Techno (trade fair of environmental technologies and products)
    An environmental business trade fair, one of the largest in western Japan, has been held annually since 1993. This trade fair includes exhibitions and workshops on environmental policies and programs of the national government and the Kitakyushu City Government and environmental technologies, products and initiatives of businesses, NPOs and environmental organizations. The fair is also an advertising opportunity for Eco-Premium products and services.
  • Subsidy system for developing future environmental technologies
    This system subsidizes practical research, social systems research and feasibility studies on highly innovative, distinctive and practical environmental technologies, to assist technology development by small and medium-sized businesses and accumulate many environmental technologies in Kitakyushu.
    • Practical research: Research and development of waste treatment/recycling, environmental protection, environment-friendly product development, new energy/energy-saving and other similar technologies fall in this category.
    • Social systems research: This category covers research and development of social and economic systems designed for creating a low-carbon society and recycling-oriented economy, including material supply and goods distribution systems critical for developing environmental industries.
    • Feasibility study: In this category, preliminary technical, marketability and economic viability surveys and research are subsidized.
  • Promotion of integrated resource recycling incorporating the transfer of wastes and by-products among recycling facilities located in the eco-town
  • Welcoming visitors to the eco-town to help them understand it
Major success factors
  • Use of wealth of technologies owned by local businesses
    • When developing recycling businesses, it was possible to use the wealth of industrial and environmental technologies owned by local businesses.
  • Efficient use of existing reclaimed land
    • In the coastal area of Kitakyushu, a huge 2000 ha area of reclaimed land had been developed. The reclaimed land was useful for recycling businesses since it was close to the existing industrial cluster.
  • Strong Leaderships in the city government, academia and industry
    • In the Kitakyushu City Government, the Mayor at the time showed strong leadership in promoting environmental industries and developing small and medium-sized businesses.
    • The executives of local universities showed strong leadership in facilitating collaboration among industry, government and academia for promoting environmental and recycling industries.
    • Top managers of major local companies took the lead in commercializing environmental and recycling industries and transferring environmental technologies to overseas countries.
  • High level of citizens' environmental awareness and Dialogue mechanism between the city government and citizens
    • Kitakyushu had once experienced serious pollution problems. Therefore, the citizens were highly aware of environmental issues.
    • Through the process of overcoming pollution problems, a dialogue mechanism was built between the city government and citizens. This mechanism enabled the city government and citizens to mutually propose and discuss policy approaches to protecting the environment and promoting recycling.
    • The Kitakyushu City Government obliged recyclers located in the eco-town to make their recycling facilities open to the public and willingly accept site visits, in order to disclose information to citizens and raise their environmental awareness. This approach helped citizens to understand recycling.
    • These measures have encouraged citizens to understand and accept the eco-town program.
    • These approaches have effectively gained citizens' cooperation in sorted and separate collection of wastes for recycling, as in demonstration tests of collecting small electronic equipment and household waste cooking oil, which began in 2008.
  • City government's support for recyclers
    • To ensure profitability for recyclers participating in the eco-town program, the Kitakyushu City Government subsidized them to carry out surveys and research for securing the procurement of recyclable waste materials and the markets for recycled products.
    • The Kitakyushu City Government has assigned staff in charge of recyclers to meet their needs concerning formalities and discussions, to provide full support for recyclers located in the eco-town.
    • It is not always easy for recyclers to allow site visits to their recycling facilities. A scheme has been created to assist them by providing a unified contact for site visits, planning site visit tours for visiting several recycling facilities and offering briefings before visiting individual facilities.
Unique efforts and initiatives for eco-town development
  • Environmental Industry Promotion Council
    • To promote the eco-town program, the Kitakyushu Environmental Industry Promotion Council was established in 1997 consisting of representatives of industry, academia and the city government, and chaired by the Mayor of Kitakyushu. The Council sets the main direction for promoting environmental industries in Kitakyushu.
  • Environmental Business Consortium for Sustainable Development
    • The Kitakyushu Interdependent Business Consortium for Sustainable Development was established in 1998 to develop business networks, enable environmental industries in the Kitakyushu area to have advanced technologies, and strategically create innovative environmental/recycling businesses by flexibly combining environmental hard and soft technologies of business companies and individuals in the Kitakyushu area. Consortium members are companies that are exploring the launch of new environmental business based in the Kitakyushu area. The Kitakyushu City Government is involved in the consortium as its secretariat.
    • The Consortium's activities include the collection, provision and exchange of technical and market information principally of environmental and recycling businesses; project planning and production; site visits; industry-academia exchanges; and public relations. The Consortium also acts as an incubator for the members, and helps them conduct international environmental business.
  • Kitakyushu Science and Research Park
    • The Kitakyushu Science and Research Park was founded in 2001 as a unique approach in Kitakyushu to gather national, prefectural, municipal and private colleges and graduate schools in science and engineering, research institutions and corporate research departments on a single campus.
    • With the objectives of becoming a core academic research center in Asia, creating new industries and improving technologies on the two themes of ‘environment' and ‘information', the Science and Research Park carries out various research and development programs in collaboration with individual institutions and trains future leaders.
  • Kitakyushu Foundation for the Advancement of Industry, Science and Technology
    • The Kitakyushu Foundation for the Advancement of Industry, Science and Technology was established in 2001 to promote research and development programs and academic research through collaboration among industry, academia and government in Kitakyushu area, aiming at contributing to the advancement of industrial technologies and the creation and development of active local business clusters.
    • The Foundation coordinates collaboration among universities, research institutes and industries in Kitakyushu City, primarily in the Kitakyushu Science and Research Park, and also provides general assistance to small, medium-sized and venture businesses.
  • Support for building environmental management systems and obtaining certification (Eco-Action 21)
    • To encourage businesses to conduct environment-friendly operations, the Kitakyushu City Government—in cooperation with the Small Business Support Center, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Small Business Associations, and other organizations—provides support, such as lectures and workshops, for small and medium-sized businesses in Kitakyushu to develop environmental management systems and obtain certification (Eco-Action 21).
Future prospects
  • Since the start of the eco-town program in 1997, recycling businesses have increased in number and created some 1300 jobs in 13 years.
  • Competition has become intense in the recycling industry, making it necessary to develop distinctive advanced technologies and recycle wastes into resources and materials of high economic value.
  • The Kitakyushu City Government operates the Kitakyushu 3R Technology Enhancement Study Group in cooperation with the Kitakyushu Foundation for the Advancement of Industry, Science and Technology for the incubation of 3R (reuse, reduce and recycle) technology to create new environmental industries. This study group has set up study subcommittees jointly with local businesses and colleges to research marketability and technical information and to conduct studies and information exchange for commercialization in promising engineering fields.
  • In 2008, Kitakyushu was designated as an eco-model city by the national government. Following the designation, the five-year program Eco-Model City Kitakyushu Action Plan running from 2009 was formulated to create a low-carbon society. The Eco-Model City Kitakyushu Regional Promotion Council was founded in 2008 to promote the plan. The Council consists of members from industry, academia, government and local communities.
  • In 2010, the Kitakyushu Environmental Industry Promotion Council was formed as a lower organizational unit of the Eco-Model City Kitakyushu Regional Promotion Council to provide opportunities for environmental industries that contribute to a low-carbon society to create a network, and to conceive and take collaborative actions for promoting environmental industries. The Environmental Industry Promotion Council has five subcommittees: (1) Environmental Business, (2) Industrial Energy, (3) New Eco-Town, (4) Environmental Management, and (5) Financial, in order to conduct various activities such as creation of advanced environmental businesses, local energy recycling, improvement of the level of recycling industries and implementation of environmental management. Based on the work of these subcommittees, general management policies, action policies and concrete actions are discussed so that industry, academia and city government can jointly help create a low-carbon society.
  • In 2010, the Kitakyushu Asian Center for a Low-Carbon Society opened in Kitakyushu. The Center aims to spread efforts to create a low-carbon society throughout Asia, as set out in the Eco-Model City Kitakyushu Action Plan. The Center helps transfer the wealth of local businesses' environmental technologies from Kitakyushu to cities in Asia in a commercially viable manner, using the networks among them. It also undertakes human resource development and conducts surveys and research specializing in Asia to help create a low-carbon society in Asia.
  • The Kitakyushu City Government is actively supporting Kitakyushu-based businesses with advanced technologies to conduct environmental business in the rapidly growing Asian economies. Specifically, the city government will provide environmental business information acquired through past cooperation projects and business feasibility studies. It also provides assistance with dispatching business delegations and participating in environmental technology exhibitions.

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