RECYCLING IS BACK:
Paper Shortage Prompts Revival of Old Practices
June 5, 2000
Until 1997, used paper was piling up in Japanese warehouses, gathering dust. Now suddenly there is a shortage. Used paper consists mainly of newspapers gathered from households and elsewhere by paper wholesalers, who sell it to paper manufacturers as material for recycling. Now that paper manufacturers are stepping up their newspaper recycling in the interest of protecting forests, saving energy, and reducing the volume of trash, used newspapers are in great demand.
Once upon a time, before Japan's period of rapid economic growth made the nation rich, paper wholesalers offered consumers free toilet paper in exchange for their old newspapers. Small loudspeaker trucks wended their way through neighborhoods issuing the call: "Got any old newspapers? We'll give you toilet paper in return!" (The singsong delivery of this request made it sound much more melodious than the English words would indicate.) With prices for used newspapers on the rise, the loudspeaker trucks may become part of the streetscape once again.
The Rise and Fall of Paper Recycling
In the 1990s, however, public concern over the environmental impact of large-scale deforestation grew. There was also increased concern over the volume of trash created by old newspapers discarded as household rubbish.
Recycling Targets Set
This increase in the paper-recycling rate is one of the factors that have turned a glut of old newspapers into a shortage. Another factor is a decrease in the volume of old newspaper collected. Because the economic slump has reduced demand for paper, old newspapers now only fetch a pittance from the paper wholesalers, who purchase it from collectors. Thus, though the low inventory would ordinarily be expected to increase incentives for paper collection, that has not been the case. In 1999, the volume of old newspaper collected was down 3% from 1997, the peak volume year. As a result, the used-paper inventory (which also includes corrugated cardboard) had plummeted to about 32,000 tons by the end of January 2000--a 75% drop from the end of April 1997, when the volume was at its highest.
Recycling Begins at Home
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.