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New Appliance Recycling Law to Take Effect

March 23, 2001
Discarded appliances will now be recycled as resources under the Household Appliance Recycling Law, which will go into force in April 2001. The legislation will create a framework for a cyclical socioeconomic system, with four types of appliances--televisions, air conditioners, washing machines, and refrigerators--collected by retailers and others and recycled by manufacturers. From now on consumers will bear a bigger share of the cost, paying as much as 8,000 yen (67.70 U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar) in the case of refrigerators, which are bulky and therefore the most expensive, for collection, transportation, and recycling. The law aims to promote the recycling of useful parts and materials, reduce unwanted household appliances, and encourage the effective use of materials.

The Cost to Consumers
Until now, discarded appliances were collected by local governments as large-size refuse and disposed of in landfills. Though it cost as much as 10,000 yen (83.30 dollars) to dispose of such items, consumers shouldered only a small share--2,000 yen (16.70 dollars) at most, with the remainder covered by taxes. Moreover, landfills were quickly approaching full capacity. Faced with this situation, the Household Appliance Recycling Law was drafted and passed with the aim of using resources more effectively and contributing to the conservation of the global environment through the recycling of four types of appliances.

Under the new law, consumers will bear the brunt of recycling costs. The burden on consumers stipulated in the legislation includes the fees paid to manufacturers for recycling and those paid to retailers, local governments, and shipping firms for collecting and transporting discarded goods. Though rates will vary from place to place, the fees for recycling are expected to be around 2,400 yen (20.00 dollars) for washing machines, 2,700 yen (23.50 dollars) for televisions, 3,500 yen (29.20 dollars) for air conditioners, and 4,600 yen (38.30 dollars) for refrigerators, and the fees for collection and transportation are expected to run roughly from 1,500 to 4,000 yen (12.50 to 33.30 dollars).

Consumers will pay retailers a fee for taking in their old appliance when they buy a new model or discard an old item in one of the four categories. The shop will then transport the discarded good to a disposal facility run by the manufacturers, turning the item over and paying a recycling fee. Consumers also have the option of bringing goods directly to the disposal facilities themselves and paying only the recycling fee.

Future Issues
The new legislation is creating a stir among not only retailers but also secondhand shops that carry used appliances. Faced with a probable increase in the number of people bringing in old appliances, some storeowners say that collecting old appliances will no longer be such hard work and welcome the recycling law. Others view the new legislation more cautiously, explaining, "Even if secondhand goods are cheap, consumers will be more prudent about quality and price when making a purchase if they know they have to pay for its disposal. This means that we are going to have to secure and offer even cheaper, better-quality goods."

A number of other problems may arise, such as the illegal disposal of appliances by people who do not want to pay the recycling fees and illegal sale of these goods to developing countries. The morals and manners of consumers will no doubt become a major issue in the coming months.

The new legislation may help reinvigorate the market for secondhand goods in Japan. Once, cars were the only used items that sold well. Today used books and appliances also sell, thanks in part to Internet transactions. Many believe that the implementation of the law will trigger a flurry of new activity in other product categories as well.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2001 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.