Sustainable Cities™

Kawasaki: Industries recycling together

Many Japanese cities are working hard to reduce waste due to lack of space to contain it. A government program to create ‘Eco Towns’ has been developed to encourage communities and industries to work together in local areas of the city – making them responsible for recycling their waste between each other.

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Kawasaki City, April 6, 2008, By Tsuchiya Yoshihiro, Flickr, Creative Commons

Much of Japan is too mountainous for habitation and the plains and coasts where most of the 127 million Japanese live are already notoriously crowded. An average person in Japan produces 410 kilos of trash a year - about half of what Americans toss out and also 100 kilos less than the green-minded Germans. The problem is simply lack of space. To save room, the country burns most of its garbage - about 75% compared to about 20% in the United States and Germany.

For this reason, the Japanese Government initiated the Eco Town program in 1997 that provides financial support for the establishment of innovative material cycle facilities and cooperation of residents, research institutions, enterprises and local authorities. The industrial town Kawasaki, which was heavily polluted, became one of the first Eco Towns.

Recycling raw ingredients in Japan, courtesy of Kenji Kurasawa


The program is based on the "zero waste" concept and is figuratively deduced from the natural food chain where nothing is wasted as waste products and organisms become essential sources of nutrients for other organisms. Eco Towns is aiming at recycling waste that is generated in an industrial sector or in households and reuse it in another sector as material.

First step is recycling of organic waste, plastic, wood, glass etc. Next step is local industries using recycled materials in the manufacturing process: Creating concrete frame panels from waste plastic, conversion of incineration ash and seashells into cement raw material, construction materials from waste timber and more.

Much of Japan is too mountainous for habitation and the plains and coasts where most of the 127 million Japanese live are already notoriously crowded. An average person in Japan produces 410 kilos of trash a year - about half of what Americans toss out and also 100 kilos less than the green-minded Germans. The problem is simply lack of space. To save room, the country burns most of its garbage - about 75% compared to about 20% in the United States and Germany.

"Cycle to cycle: Instead of disposing of waste, think about how to use it as an input. The goal is no waste generation at all. Apply the intelligence of nature to human needs. Waste = food."  McDonough & Braungart (2002) 

 
There appears to have been a gradual increase in take-back of home appliances. The figure below shows this:

Product categories
Recycling standard (HARL)[1]
Actual recycling rate (2004)
Air conditioners
60%
82%
Televisions
55%
81%
Refrigerators
50%
64%
Washing machines
50%
68%
Source: Mitsubishi presentation (2005). It should be noted that the Japanese define the recycling rate as 'weight of materials recycled' divided by 'weight of units treated' (source: British Embassy presentation (2005)). (1) The Home Appliance Recycling Laq (HARL).

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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