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[GreenYes] INFO: new Japanese recycling law
This new recycling law in Japan seems to put the burden of responsibility
on consumers, rather than producers, which is the only way to get producers
to redesign their products for better recycling.

Neil



FEATURE-Japan tests its mettle with recycling plan 

TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) - Japan has never had a problem churning out new
televisions or refrigerators that are a must-have for consumers. 

Deciding what to do with the old ones is a different story. 

Rusting refrigerators, discarded televisions and unwanted washing machines
sprout among the grasses of scenic riverbanks throughout the country. 

But new legislation that takes effect next month aims to change that by
requiring electronics makers to recycle old appliances, rather than
crushing or burying them as waste. 

So far, electronics firms have been giving the impression they will follow
the new rules, absorbing some of the additional costs that recycling will
require as a trade-off for improving their efficiency in using recycled
materials and portraying themselves as socially responsible businesses. 

But the jury is still out on whether consumers, battered by a decade of
economic stagnation, will pay additional costs, too. 

``It's difficult to predict how many used goods will be collected for
recycling beginning in April,'' said Junji Kanegawa, a spokesman at
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd, the world's largest consumer
electronics manufacturer. 

``It's a question of individual standards and also how strictly the new law
will be enforced.'' 

Tomoki Katagiri, deputy head of Mitsubishi Materials Corp's Global
Ecoindustry Centre, said it would likely take about three years for the
public to accept the additional costs for protecting the environment. 

NOT EASY BEING GREEN 

Under the new law, manufacturers must recycle four types of  appliances --
washing machines, televisions, refrigerators and air conditioners --
accounting for around 80 percent of all appliances produced in Japan. 

Used appliances are now collected by electronics shops or local
governments, after which most of them are crushed and buried as waste or
exported as used products or parts. 

But years of using this system has left little land available for appliance
burial in densely populated Japan and the government estimates even that
will be used up in seven to eight years. 

While no official data exist, an estimated 20 million used home appliances
must be disposed of annually in Japan, industry sources said. In the past,
20 to 40 percent of them were believed to have been illegally dumped or
exported. 

After the new law takes effect, Matsushita and other Japanese consumer
electronics goods manufacturers plan to charge consumers 2,400 yen ($20) to
dispose of unwanted washing machines, 2,700 yen for televisions, 3,500 yen
for air conditioners and 4,600 yen for refrigerators. 

Manufacturers have built new recycling plants and teamed up with recyclers
to smooth the procedure. 

But consumers will also have to pay the cost of transporting the appliances
from the manufacturers' shops to recycling plants. This could be hard to
swallow at a time when they are keeping a tight hold on their purse strings
due to the sluggish economy. 

RULES LACK TEETH 

The success of the regulations may hinge on how strictly they are enforced
and the economic benefits firms can gain through recycling. 

Many consumers are likely to illegally dump unwanted appliances if they
view the new disposal costs as too expensive, and shops might send
appliances to scrap makers instead of recycling plants to cut costs and
avoid charging their customers, a metal industry source said. 

Unfortunately for supporters of the new law, local government regulation of
illegal appliance dumping is seen as generally loose and penalties may not
be much of a deterrent. Under the new law, consumer electric goods makers
and retailers can be slapped with a maximum fine of 500,000 yen, or about
$4,200. 

Punishments for individuals, allowing for up to five years' imprisonment or
a 10-million yen fine, will remain unchanged. 

A WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITY 

Proponents of the plans say the new laws, if properly implemented, are
business-friendly as well as green. 

A Japan Mining Industry Association official said that if all used home
appliances, cars and office automation equipment were recycled, about 14
percent, or 200,000 tonnes, of Japan's copper output could be recovered
each year. 

Japan is to introduce recycling rules covering automobiles and office
automation equipment in the next few years. 

Mitsubishi Materials' Katagiri said if the new system became
well-established, imports of copper concentrates would fall in line with
the amount of copper recovered through recycling, a phenomenon seen in the
lead industry in Japan. 

``In lead, Japan has a well-established recycling system in which stores
buy back used lead batteries, give them to refiners who reclaim lead in the
batteries and then sell it back to battery producers,'' he said. ``The
recycling system has helped reduce Japanese imports of lead concentrates.'' 

Matsushita's spokesman said it would be able to gradually reduce its costs
through the improvement of recycling technology and by handling bigger
volumes. 

But in the end, with lingering uncertainty about enforcement and the
attitude of manufacturers may only count for so much. 

``Unless consumers accept the fees, it will be hard to establish the
recycling system,'' the Matsushita spokesman said. 

($1 - 119.16 yen) 




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