Information Bulletin No.82

Progress in Recycling Garbage

Resource:City of Izumo

February 29, 1996

Treating and disposing of the ever-increasing amount of trash is giving headaches to local governments throughout the country. Recently, however, active steps are being taken to recycle garbage and burnable trash, reusing them in the form of compost and solid fuel rather than incinerating them. Not only is it easier to win community residents' approval for plant sites, this system also has the advantages of utilizing resources effectively and preserving the environment, and a number of local governments have put it on a commercial basis.

Reuse as Compost and Solid Fuel
The first of these systems to draw attention as a pilot project was the Resource Recycling Center in Nogi, a town in Tochigi Prefecture, constructed in November 1992. This center collects kitchen garbage separately, mixes it with fermentation agent, and ferments it for three months. The resulting compost is distributed to farmers free of charge through agricultural cooperatives, and orders have already been received covering the full amount to be produced in the next five years. Paper, wood, plastic, and other burnables are pulverized, dried, and turned into solid fuel, which is sold for four to five thousand yen per ton.
A major trading company and a steel manufacturer set up a joint venture to construct and operate the plant. The municipal administration collects and transports the trash, paying the firm to process it into compost and fuel. In an eight-hour day, the plant can treat two tons of garbage and 10 tons of burnable waste. The firm is profiting enough to make a go of it as a private enterprise.
Those involved in the project say that as a waste treatment facility, it requires less space than an incinerating plant; construction cost is low; the compost is useful to organic farmers in the vicinity; and because the solid fuel can be stored and transported, it can be employed in many ways, from ordinary household uses to electricity generation. With this many advantages, inquiries and observers are flowing in from local governments and other organizations across the country.

Mobile Trash Processors
One unique effort is the two mobile trash processors that appeared in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture, in October 1995. These are special trucks designed to collect and treat waste. One truck collects garbage and mixes it with fermentation agent, completing the first stage of fermentation in 30 minutes. The other truck pulverizes and dries trash, converting it into solid fuel pellets. Both are still in the experimental stage, but they are drawing attention from local governments that are having difficulty securing sites for incineration plants.

Local Governments Building Treatment Plants
Plants like Nogi's Resource Recycling Center are already in operation in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and communities in Toyama, Nara, and other prefectures, and under construction in a number of other locations around the country.
Some of these municipalities have left plant management and operation in the hands of a private firm, like that in Nogi, but in many cases individual towns run the operation or a number of neighboring communities organize an area-wide cooperative for the purpose. Plant and equipment manufacturers, who see this as a business opportunity, are set to enter the field, and it looks as if in the future more local governments will join hands with the private sector for waste recycling treatment projects.

(The above article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., is based on domestic Japanese news sources. It is offered for reference purposes and does not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.)