Goods are not consumed. They are used. Substances remain intact and the only place they can go is back into the environment. . . . The only way to take the burden off the environment is to recycle them.
Allen V. Kneese,
North American Wildlife and Natural
Resources Conference, Houston, 1968
“Recycling boom gains ground across nation,” heralded a headline recently in the Boston Globe. The article went on to detail the findings of a report by the National Recycling Coalition, reporting that “80 percent of the states now have comprehensive recycling laws, and curbside recycling programs have grown from a few hundred at the end of the 1980s to more than 4,000.” The article continued, “in an effort to develop markets for all that is being collected, more than half the states have also passed laws to offer incentives or issue mandates for manufacturers to use recycled materials.”
Although recycling appears to be in vogue today, it is a practice that has occurred wherever it has been economically advantageous. Markets for recycled material often created an infrastructure of recyclers. The chemical and petrochemical industries, for example, characteristically consider processing in terms of turning as much as possible into useful products by finding uses for wastes or making chemical changes so that waste materials can become products. Materials such as aluminum and steel, for which recycle markets have developed, are recycled routinely. The success of recycling depends on creating markets for recycled material.
Today's recycling initiatives have two characteristic features. First, there is a shift from voluntary to mandated recycling. Second, the initiatives are moving beyond the recycling of materials or single products, such as aluminum cans and newspapers, to durable, complex consumer goods. German “take-back” legislation, for example, requires manufacturers to recover, recycle, or dispose of assembled products, such as automobiles, electronics, and household appliances, when consumers retire them. Similar trends are evident in the 1991 Japanese Law Promoting the Utilization of Recyclable Resources.
This shift is extending the responsibilities manufacturers have for their products by defining market requirements. What are the current and emerging policies effecting product development, consumer use, discard, and disposal? What are the implications of these policies for industry?
Several factors need to be considered in establishing a public policy infrastructure for recycling. Critical elements include regulations, and new technology, as well as standards and financial mechanisms that foster cooperation between industry and citizens. Japan's 1991 Law Promoting the Utilization of Recyclable Resources (the “Recycling Law”) and Ecofactory initiative of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) address these factors.
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives 6 Recycling Goods are not consumed. They are used. Substances remain intact and the only place they can go is back into the environment. . . . The only way to take the burden off the environment is to recycle them. Allen V. Kneese, North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Houston, 1968 “Recycling boom gains ground across nation,” heralded a headline recently in the Boston Globe. The article went on to detail the findings of a report by the National Recycling Coalition, reporting that “80 percent of the states now have comprehensive recycling laws, and curbside recycling programs have grown from a few hundred at the end of the 1980s to more than 4,000.” The article continued, “in an effort to develop markets for all that is being collected, more than half the states have also passed laws to offer incentives or issue mandates for manufacturers to use recycled materials.” Although recycling appears to be in vogue today, it is a practice that has occurred wherever it has been economically advantageous. Markets for recycled material often created an infrastructure of recyclers. The chemical and petrochemical industries, for example, characteristically consider processing in terms of turning as much as possible into useful products by finding uses for wastes or making chemical changes so that waste materials can become products. Materials such as aluminum and steel, for which recycle markets have developed, are recycled routinely. The success of recycling depends on creating markets for recycled material. Today's recycling initiatives have two characteristic features. First, there is a shift from voluntary to mandated recycling. Second, the initiatives are moving beyond the recycling of materials or single products, such as aluminum cans and newspapers, to durable, complex consumer goods. German “take-back” legislation, for example, requires manufacturers to recover, recycle, or dispose of assembled products, such as automobiles, electronics, and household appliances, when consumers retire them. Similar trends are evident in the 1991 Japanese Law Promoting the Utilization of Recyclable Resources. This shift is extending the responsibilities manufacturers have for their products by defining market requirements. What are the current and emerging policies effecting product development, consumer use, discard, and disposal? What are the implications of these policies for industry? PERSPECTIVES Japan's Recycling Law and the “Ecofactory” NOBURO YUMOTO Several factors need to be considered in establishing a public policy infrastructure for recycling. Critical elements include regulations, and new technology, as well as standards and financial mechanisms that foster cooperation between industry and citizens. Japan's 1991 Law Promoting the Utilization of Recyclable Resources (the “Recycling Law”) and Ecofactory initiative of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) address these factors.
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives TABLE 3 Designated Industries and Products Under Japan's Recycling Law Specifically Designated Industries Industry Recyclable resources Paper manufacturing Waste paper Glass container manufacturing Cullet Construction Earth and sand, concrete blocks or asphalt/concrete blocks First-Class Designated Products Product Industry Automobiles Auto manufacturers Repair business Air conditioners Manufacturers TV receivers Electric refrigerators Electric washing machines Second-Class Designated Products Product Industry Steel or aluminum cans for drinks Can manufacturers Businesses importing cans with drinks Cans for liquors Can manufacturers Businesses filling or importing cans with liquors Designated By-products By-product Industry Slag Iron, steel, rolling industries Coal ash Electric industry Earth, sand, concrete Construction industry The Recycling Law promotes the idea of the “recyclable resource” and the recoverability of recyclable resources from waste material. The law establishes target recycling rates for each type of recyclable resource and product priorities for specific industry sectors (Table 3). It also prescribes industry and national and local government responsibilities for securing consumer cooperation in recycling. Figure 11 shows how the provisions of this law are organized. Under the law, manufacturers of primary designated products (automobiles and home electric appliances) are required to assess the recyclability of products during their design phase. Based on the assessments, manufacturers are required to improve the materials selection and product construction to aid recycling. The criteria and methods for product assessment are being defined. They are intended to meet the following objectives: Materials saving in product design. Material recycling, easier crushing and waste volume reduction. Easier disassembly. Easier sorting. Easier recovery and transportation. Assessment of packaging. Improvement of safety and environmental preservation attribute. Disclosure of related information. Secondary and recycled materials markets will have to be enlarged to increase recycling. To create those markets and promote reuse and recovery of recycled products, MITI guarantees the quality of recycled products under the Japan Industrial Standard (JIS) classifications for various recycled products. The standards are similar to those set internationally. Closely tied to the Recycling Law is MITI's Ecofactory R&D initiative. The purpose of the Ecofactory (short for Ecology-based Factory or Ecologically Conscious Factory) is to establish next-generation technologies that will contribute to solving the Earth's environmental problems without impairing the economy or technical progress of industrial production (Japan External Trade Organization, 1993). The Ecofactory focuses on R&D programs for developing production-system and restoration-system factories. The production-system factory focuses on the product design and the material processing, machining, and assembling stages of a product life cycle. The restorationsystem factory is concerned with the material resource recycling or product disposal at the end of its life. Ecofactory implementation depends on two needs being met. The first is an assessment of the environmental concerns of a product's life cycle. Currently this is classified as the “Ecofactory Control and Assessment Sector.” The purpose is to optimize the total Ecofactory system around defined objectives that are assessed in each stage of the Ecofactory. The objectives to date are as follows: Minimize energy consumption (CO2 emission), and switch to energy resources that minimize environmental degradation.
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives Minimize consumption of valuable material resources, and eliminate materials liable to destroy the natural environment. Minimize waste generation, and generate only wastes that can be recycled with ease. Eliminate substances that are detrimental to the global environment. The second need that must be satisfied is for a comprehensive R&D effort to develop innovative technologies to reduce the volume of wastes, recycle recovered materials, simplify waste treatments, and establish technologies for “industrial restoration and regeneration ” as well as technologies for industrial production. The industrial restoration and regeneration technologies are control and remediation technologies, or “clean production technologies.” Five categories of Ecofactory production technologies have been targeted for development: Design Technology. This involves design-stage evaluation of the fabricated product for disposability and recyclability. This assessment is aimed at minimizing the environmental burden of producing, consuming, and recycling a product. Production Technology. This relates to developing specific technologies for production processes. These include waste minimization technology, new fabrication technology to ensure reliable dismantling of the product, and material processing technology for product recyclability. Dismantling Technology. This includes automatic recognition of material structure and robotics for intelligent dismantling of products. It is assumed that these technologies can operate in contaminated environments. Reprocessing Technology. Material design technology focuses on improving recyclability while maintaining other desirable properties of the product and on developing recycling methods to produce secondary materials of the same qualities virgin materials. Electrical, chemical, physical, and metallurgical reprocessing methods will be examined. Systems Technology. The goal is to develop systems methods to integrate the technologies in the four previous categories and to meet specific needs of the industry sector. In enacting the Recycling Law, Japan used the legislative process to force integration of environmental factors into a product's design. The law provides the framework to assess and minimize the environmental burdens of industrial systems. It attempts to change business and consumer behavior and includes a complementary R&D plan to develop the new technologies needed. FIGURE 11 Outline of Japan's Law Promoting the Utilization of Recyclable Resource.
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives Automotive Industry Recycling Programs and Issues SANTOKH LABANA Recycling programs by U.S. and Japanese automakers are strikingly similar, reflecting the similarity of the key factors affecting manufacturers in both countries. In the United States, a well-developed infrastructure exists to recover useful materials and components from automotive industrial activities. Sources of material include both the waste generated at the manufacturing operations and the recycled materials from junkyards and shredders. Figure 12 illustrates the process. When a car is discarded, it is sent to a junkyard, where useful components are removed. Some components are used as repair parts (e.g., body panels) or are remanufactured, while valuable materials are recovered from others (e.g., engines, water pumps, radiators, and catalytic converters). Dismantlers remove fuel tanks, air bags, batteries, and tires. Once the car is dismantled, the car hulk is crushed and sent to a shredder, where, along with other durable goods and both construction and industrial scrap steel, it is fed to a powerful hammer mill and shredded into fist-size pieces. Approximately 75 percent, by weight, of a discarded vehicle is recycled in the industrial ecosystem of automobiles. The remaining 25 percent ends up as waste, commonly known as “fluff,” and is buried in landfills. Fluff consists of approximately 37 percent plastics, 17 percent fluids, 16 percent glass, and 12 percent other materials. Two major trends are expected to have an impact on the functioning of this vehicle recycling system. First, FIGURE 12 Automotive recycling infrastructure. fuel economy improvements involve reducing the weight of vehicles. To reduce the weight, automakers seek lighter materials such as aluminum and plastics. Increased use of plastics will increase the amount of fluff, which is the primary waste associated with automobiles at this time. Second, Germany has mandated that automobile manufacturers reclaim their products before disposal. Under this “take-back” program, manufacturers are required to assume responsibility for the final disposal of their products. This means that the manufacturer or another designated party must establish a system to recycle or dispose of products in an environmentally sound manner. Design for Disassembly (DFD) is the necessary approach to recovering and recycling materials. Automakers will have to work with suppliers and recyclers to ensure that disassembly occurs. Where recyclers are absent, automakers have to help establish an infrastructure of “reverse distributor.” Automakers in both countries have initiated programs to address these needs. In the United States, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors have formed a “Vehicle Recycling Partnership” for precompetitive R&D to recover and recycle materials from scrap automobiles and to develop tools to evaluate the recyclability of new designs. This R&D consortium is placing major emphasis on developing technologies to recycle materials and components from scrap automobiles; understanding major technical, environmental, and cost issues associated with various alternatives; and developing guidelines for improving designs and materials selection for easier recycling of future vehicles. Issues to Consider in Recycling Automobiles NAGAYUKI MARUMO In Japan, Nissan formed a Recycling Promotion Committee in August 1990. Its objectives are to explore and implement ways to advance automotive design for recyclability and to develop technologies and programs for recycling plastic bumpers. The concerns and challenges facing Japanese automakers in promoting and improving the recycling of automobiles are similar to those of U.S. automakers. However, recycling should not be done simply as an expression of corporate concern for the environment. Rather, recycling must truly contribute to conserving natural resources and improving the environment in which people live. To do so, three issues must be addressed.
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives First, recycling systems must be based on sound economics. German “take-back” laws, requiring car manufacturers to assume responsibility for automobiles at the end of their useful lives, free of charge, detracts from practical economics. Recycling should be viewed as another economic activity. To be viable over the long haul, efforts by individual companies to develop recycling technologies and to implement recycling systems will also have to be based on sound economic principles. Companies, for their part, should do their utmost to reduce recycling costs, but it will be necessary to ask consumers to bear a certain portion of the recycling cost as part of the price of a product. The cost of maintaining a healthy environment is something that will have to be shared by all sectors of society. Environmental cost should be internalized to the extent possible. Second, there is a need to strengthen and expand research on converting shredder fluff into reusable materials. In the short to medium term, it is necessary to reduce the amount of shredder fluff that is generated. In the longer term, fluff should be reused instead of buried in landfills. The cement industry provides one possible point of reentry into the economy for shredder fluff. Third, many companies are now cooperating in programs to recycle plastics into reusable materials. Unfortunately, recycling technologies and collection routes for plastic parts are still not well developed. There are only a few recycling systems that are actually economical. As a result, it is difficult at present to recycle all small plastic parts into reusable materials or resources. There is a need to develop markets for plastics and an infrastructure to recover plastics and reintroduce them into the economy. Canon's Recycling Initiation ISAMU MAKI Canon's recycling of electrophotographic cartridges used in laser printers and fax machines is illustrative of programs for recycling small components. Plans for a recycling program for electrophotographic cartridges began in 1989, prompted by observations of dramatic increases in demand for and production of cartridges since their introduction in 1982. For example, Canon currently produces more than two million cartridges per month, with an estimated growth rate of 30 percent per year. This dramatic growth prompted Canon to address the implied waste associated with used cartridges. Canon is considering several projects to address this concern. The company's priorities are to (1) refurbish cartridges, (2) use longer-lived parts and recycle cartridges, (3) recycle containers and packaging, (4) reduce energy consumption, and (5) eliminate the use or emission of hazardous materials. The character of the electrophotographic cartridges and their use has posed serious challenges for implementing a recycling program. Whereas automobiles are bulky and a network of recyclers has moved in to feed off junked cars, printer cartridges are small. Although they are used in large volumes, the customer is generally a small-scale user, thus creating the challenge of building up sufficient volume for economically efficient recycling. Canon also had to create the veins, or recovery routes, for these products. A trial collection program was carried out in May 1991 in the United States. Canon considered using existing channels for the recycling project but faced two hurdles —diversified sales channels, and a vast geographical area. To overcome these obstacles, Canon opted for direct collection from users by means of prepaid parcel services. The recycling effort was expanded to Europe, where different collection schemes had to be considered because of differences in language, environmental regulations, and the like. To facilitate recycling in Europe, Canon uses its dealer network as collection points. Parties involved in the program have the following responsibilities: The manufacturer covers the costs of transportation and recycles the returned cartridges as effectively as possible. Retail stores send the returned cartridges to the manufacturer free of charge. Users return the spent cartridges to the retail store or the manufacturer. To encourage user participation in the United States, Canon contributes $1 for each cartridge returned to either the National Wildlife Federation or the Nature Conservancy. The user chooses which organization the contribution should go to. Collection and participation were just two of the issues Canon faced in instituting its cartridge recycling program. It also had to develop recycling centers and new processes. A recycling center was constructed at Canon's Dalian cartridge manufacturing plant in China. The Dalian location was selected because existing Japanese plants could not feasibly be expanded. In addition, the shorter distance between the Chinese plant and Japan gave it an edge over a plant in America as parts needed to be easily transferred to Japan. At the plant, cartridges are inspected and disassembled upon arrival. Each cartridge is classified into one of three categories: (1) reusable as is, (2) can be processed and regenerated as new parts, and (3) can be processed and regenerated as other goods.
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives Eighty-two percent, by weight, of the parts are reusable; 11 percent are regenerated into other parts; and 6 percent are sold for regeneration into other goods. Parts that are not reusable are melted and regenerated as raw material for other goods. Two aspects of Canon's recycling efforts are worth noting. First, the program is currently unprofitable, but the experiment is teaching Canon significant lessons about recycling its product. As the company gains experience in recycling, and as the ethic of recycling grows, Canon believes it will be well positioned to profit from its recycling initiatives. Second, although the number of cartridges being collected for recycling is small (only a few percent are being returned), the number being collected is growing. DISCUSSION Workshop participants noted two key factors from Japan's recycling initiative: the consensus or collaborative approach to developing the program, and the prominence of MITI in implementing environmental initiatives. The consensus process involved in establishing the Japanese recycling law and concurrent R&D strategies originated with the Japanese Environmental Protection Department. It is instructive to observe the critical role played by MITI (an agency not set up with an environmental mandate) in bringing industry into the process. As is customary, a set of committees was established when MITI identified the environmental issue requiring attention. First, an Advisory Committee consisting of highlevel members (vice presidents and chief executive officers) is established. Second, an Expert Committee, at the level of department heads, is established. Last, a Working Group is established. All three committees also have top academicians and MITI personnel assigned to them. In this way, MITI is able to draw on substantial resources of technological expertise to address multimedia (air, water, land) environmental concerns comprehensively. U.S. workshop participants agreed that the U.S. approach to environmental policy formulation, in contrast, is confrontational and fragmented. Lindsey of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggested it did not have to be this way. He noted that there is room for improvement in the way environmental policy is made and implemented in the United States, and that it requires better collaboration between industry and government. The growth of voluntary programs at EPA involving industry-EPA partnerships to prevent pollution illustrates a trend toward more collaboration and consensus. New modes of operation are clearly called for and appear to be emerging. U.S. workshop participants commented on the implementation of the recycling law through MITI. As a technologically sophisticated agency, MITI has traditionally been associated with building Japan's industrial base. However, the agency has become increasingly unsure of its role as Japanese firms have become more successful and the larger firms especially have begun to outgrow MITI's control. Accordingly, MITI has been seeking a new role and sees environmental protection as a powerful function, as well as a way of increasing its budget. As a result, MITI is making use of its access to significant technological expertise about manufacturing to lead the implementation of environmental initiatives. U.S. participants noted that MITI's involvement implies that Japanese industry will be strongly encouraged to develop environmental expertise, while at the same time ensuring that Japanese environmental regulation is technologically sophisticated. In the United States, EPA's technological expertise lies predominantly in environmental control technologies, and the approach to controlling pollution has been to define “best available technologies.” Pollution prevention efforts increasingly require knowledge of production technology, knowledge the agency lacks. The approach of providing incentives to prevent pollution leaves production technology decisions to industry. Workshop participants noted that the low numbers of return on printer cartridges may be attributed to small businesses located close to customer centers offering refurbishment and reuse of spent cartridges. These businesses will, in essence, lengthen the life of the cartridges. Because this service is offered closer to the customer, it avoids the transport and retransport of materials. Reuse of products may be a viable strategy for company product stewardship. Recycling recovers materials in post-use waste for use as inputs to production. However, recycling does not influence the speed with which materials or goods flow through the economy. Reuse can slow the materials flow from production to recycling (or disposal). When products are reused, they circulate back into the economy rather than being disposed of in landfills or incinerators. Product-life extension strategies, such as reuse, are facilitated by service-oriented activities, including repair, reconditioning, and product upgrades. Product-life extension prevents waste generation in use, production, distribution (including packaging), and recycling or disposal. It also reduces the environmental impacts of transportation associated with each of these product life stages. Some companies (Xerox, for example) encourage
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Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives product reuse through leasing programs and by designing products for upgradability. In years past, telephones were leased and transferred from customer to customer. Today, however, customers not only are buying phones instead of leasing them but are buying them more frequently to take advantage of rapid technological advances. Old (reused) less fuel-efficient cars are best replaced by newer, more fuel-efficient models. Reuse, like recycling, is clearly not an option in all cases but represents an option for companies wishing to demonstrate greater responsibility for their products. REFERENCE Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) . 1993 . Ecofactory: Concept and R&D Themes . Insert in New Technology Japan, February 1993 . Published by JETRO , Tokyo .