7.Creation of a recycling-oriented society with the Kitakyushu Eco-Town


Since 1987, Kitakyushu Eco-Town, Japan's first Eco-Town project, has been growing as a recycling-oriented industrial park on 16.8 hectares in the city's Hibikinada area. The plan has been based on a long-term vision to use a former industrial area. Today, its supporting regulatory regime, organizational structure, and funding arrangements are very well-developed. One future challenge is to develop social assets further in order to have more of a relationship with the lifestyles of the citizens.

Kitakyushu City Eco-Town: "Plan" and "Fund"

The Eco-Town Project was created in fiscal 1997 under Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (currently the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, or METI) and the former Ministry of Health and Welfare (project was later transferred to the present Ministry of Environment). It was founded on the basic concept of "zero-emissions." In essence, this concept is about ultimately reducing waste generation to zero, by taking the "waste" arising in citizen lifestyles and industrial activities, and utilizing it to the greatest extent possible as raw materials in other industries. The Eco-Town project has two objectives: (1) to stimulate local economies by nurturing the growth of environmental industries that take advantage of the industrial capabilities in each region, and (2) to create integrated systems that are in harmony with the environment, and to involve industry, the public sector, and consumers, with the aim of creating a resource-recycling society in a given region. Two types of subsidies are provided to Eco-Towns to stimulate environmental industries: (1) the Eco-Town "Soft" Subsidy (the Resource-Recycling Regional Stimulation Subsidy for Project Costs), and the Eco-Town "Hard" Subsidy (and the Resource-Recycling Regional Stimulation Subsidy for Infrastructure Improvement Costs). The Soft Subsidy will cover up to one-half of certain costs of Eco-Town projects, including research and studies for the purposes of developing plans; exhibitions of sample products and technologies; and information provision to related industries and citizens, etc. The Hard Subsidy will cover up to one-third or one-half of the costs of improving recycling facilities, including recycling equipment and manufacturing plants. To receive a subsidy, a local government must prepare a promotion plan (Eco-Town Plan), and receive approval from the central government for an Eco-Town zone. The criteria for obtaining approval include the following: the plan is original and innovative and will serve as a model for other regions; the plan is well-developed and implementation appears to be feasible; and the plan will help to suppress waste generation at source, reduce of the volume of waste during treatment, and promote the effective use of resources. To date (spring of 2004) 19 areas in Japan have been approved by the government as Eco-Town projects.
Kitakyushu City prepared the Kitakyushu Eco-Town Plan, with the stimulation of environmental and recycling industries as its main pillar, and it was approved by the national government in July 1997. The Kitakyushu Eco-Town is located in the Hibikinada area of Wakamatsu Ward, the site of a large landfill, and some projects are already underway. To move the project forward, the Kitakyushu Foundation for the Advancement of Industry Science and Technology (FAIS), comprised of industrial, academic and governmental members, decides on detailed policies and is developing specific regional policies that integrate environmental and industrial stimulation policies.


Social Asset Created Kitakyushu Eco-town

The Eco-Town Project is located on a large area of reclaimed land in Wakamatsu Ward facing Hibikinada, in the northwest part of Kitakyushu. This site was created with the intention of turning it into land for industrial purposes, using dredging sludge from the Kanmon shipping channel and port between Moji Ward and the neighboring city of Shimonoseki, as well as waste that included slag from a cluster of factories near Dokai Bay in Kitakyushu. The original plans were thwarted by structural changes in the heavy manufacturing industries, the backbone of the city's economy, and Kitakyushu was forced to rethink its plans for the use of the site. This site has a number of advantages, including its large area of 2,000 hectares, managed areas that allow low cost and appropriate waste treatment, an abundant supply of water for industrial use, and the potential for low-cost transport using the nearby port. Starting in 1989, Prof. Toshifumi Yata of Kitakyushu University started a study group to look into the uses of the landfill. The group raised the idea that Kitakyushu was a city focused on steel making industries and that those technologies could be exploited in other industries that convert used items back into resources for new uses. That concept of a resource-recycling industry continued as an important theme. At the same time, the national government was becoming active in promoting a recycling-oriented society, and created the Eco-Town concept in 1997. Hearing of that opportunity, the City of Kitakyushu prepared the Kitakyushu Eco-Town Plan, obtained approval from the government, and launched the actual project.

Phase 1 Project, Consisting of 3 Zones

The Kitakyushu Eco-Town is located in the Hibikinada area of Wakamatsu. It is consisted of three zones: the Comprehensive Environmental Industrial Complex, the Practical Research Area, and the Hibiki Recycling Area.

¡¦The Comprehensive Environmental Industrial Complex

The heart of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town is the Comprehensive Environmental Industrial Complex. Here, the goal is to create a cluster of factories in Hibikinada near the shore that recycle waste and to create a recycling system for waste and energy. At present, recycling businesses are up and running in seven areas: PET bottles, office equipment, automobiles, household electrical appliances, fluorescent lights, medical equipment, and mixed construction waste. In each of these categories, efforts are under way to minimize the costs of treatment and make recycling economically viable by collecting waste from a large area and by processing materials on a large scale.A major feature here is that large companies active in Kitakyushu have become major funders. For example, the major funders of the Nishi-Nippon PET-Bottle Recycle Co., include Nippon Steel Corporation and Mitsui & Co., and the major funders of a company known as Recycle Tech include Shinryo and Ricoh Corporation. Indeed, it is not only funds that the parent companies are providing. In many cases the recycling factories are using production plants, technologies and know-how obtained from the parent. For example, the PET bottle plant is using know-how from Nippon Steel Corporation in its plant operating technology. Because of that, it is common to see strong connections with the parent companies, including staff on loan or dispatched for specific tasks. Also, a large part of the Eco-Town site originally belonged to Nippon Steel Corporation. In other words, the recycling businesses in this zone have a strong connection with the existing manufacturing industry of Kitakyushu. Because there are many examples like this, the recycling at this Integrated Environmental Complex is often praised as a symbol of the progressive approach of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town. But recycling businesses are also backed-up by large companies are being planned or implemented in other Eco-Towns in Japan, so it is really the next two zones that demonstrate the qualitative uniqueness of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town.


¡¦The Practical Research Area

The second pillar of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town is the Practical Research Area. This zone is a cluster of research institutes involved in recycling and waste treatment. At present, there are 16 facilities located here, including university research institutes and company testing and demonstration facilities. This zone covers 16.5 hectares (of which 6.5 hectares are currently being used) located a good distance from residential areas, making it possible to conduct research into waste treatment and other fields that may otherwise be constrained by such factors as opposition from local residents. There is no other Eco-Town in Japan that has brought together research facilities on such a large scale as this. Applied research and demonstration testing is very important in order to create new businesses. With the collection of environment-related research facilities here, it is hoped that new environmental businesses will emerge. This area also contains what is known as the Eco-Town Center.It was established in 2001 to manage Eco-Town facilities when they were first set up. Hibikinada Development Co., a public-private partnership, handles management and operations. Its main objectives are to offer a place of environmental learning, to accept study tours, to support research activities, and to exhibit technologies and products. The facilities include seminar rooms for education and exchanges, an exhibition hall to display technologies and products of Eco-Town companies, and rooms for overnight guests. In 2002, the Eco-Town Center Annex was established. Its main objective is to introduce environment-related companies that are not located in Eco-Town, and includes an exhibition hall for that purpose.


¡¦The Hibiki Recycling Area

The third pillar of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town is the Hibiki Recycling Area. Here, the goal is to create a cluster of small and medium-sized waste treatment companies in order to achieve optimal and efficient recycling, and to foster the growth of recycling-related venture companies. It is divided into the "frontier zone" and "automobile recycling zone." The former is where local small- and medium-sized businesses and venture companies are applying innovative and creative technology ideas, and at present four companies have set up here. The latter is where a group of automobile dismantling companies that were scattered around the city have moved together into one place, and are working to create more efficient automobile recycling businesses. There are now seven companies set up here. Whereas the recycling activities of The Comprehensive Environmental Industrial Complex are based on collecting materials from a wide area, the Hibiki Recycling Area differs in that it is seeking recycling that is intimately connected with the local area. Its target is waste that is generated nearby, in a smaller area. Environmental industries are gaining momentum and some appear ready to take-off. High expectations are being placed on the venture companies here, and observers nationwide are watching to see if a recycling park made only of small- and medium-sized companies will succeed.

External Evaluation of Phase 1

Many observers are watching this initiative under way in Kitakyushu City. By way of evaluation, the Kitakyushu Eco-Town was covered in the central government's 1998 Annual White Paper on the Environment presented as a model of an industrial system based on sound material cycles. It received the Fifth Special Prize for Planning from the Japan Association for Planning and Administration, the fiscal 1999 Environmental Award from the Japan Society of Civil Engineers, and the Environmental Award at the Fifteenth Tokyo Creation Awards. In addition, the Kitakyushu Eco-Town is described in the textbooks of primary and junior high schools, as a representative example of initiatives leading toward a recycling-oriented society. These initiatives are attracting attention not only from Japan but also from overseas, and as the table below indicates, Eco-Town receives a growing number of visitors and study tours.

Study Tours and Visitors to Kitakyushu Eco-Town
Fiscal year
Cumulative visitors
Source: City of Kitakyushu, Environmental Bureau, Industrial Policy Office.


Developments in Phase 2

Phase 1 of the Eco-Town Project, which started in 1997, has ended. Phase 2 began in August 2002, with the following targets. The vision being presented is to become "Asia's International Resource-Recycling and Environmental Industry Base City," with a target year of fiscal 2010. The major initiatives of this phase are described below.

¡¦Expansion of the area covered under the plan

Expand the area to include the entire eastern part of the Hibikinada area, and attract more companies. At present the recycling companies located here are involved in pachinko (game) machines, waste timber, waste plastic, toner cartridges and beverage containers.

¡¦Attract new environmental industries

Companies currently sited here aim for recycling, but in the future, attract new industries such as those involved in re-using and re-building of used items, etc.¡¡ In addition, aim to create projects that are in the business of developing networks and distribution systems that use information technologies.

¡¦Construction of multi-function core facilities

Construction is underway on facilities to process the post-recycling residue and other materials generated from companies in the Kitakyushu Eco-Town project in a steady and proper way, and to supply the electricity and heating energy needs within the complex these materials. Work began in June 2003 and the facilities are expected to be operating in March of 2005. They is expected to have the capacity to handle 320 tons of material per day, and produce 14,000 kilowatts of electricity. The use of these leftover materials would move the entire project closer to achieving true zero emissions.
Besides the Phase 2 plans, a number of other initiatives are under way, including the construction of the "Recycling Port," and the construction of the PCB treatment facilities. Regarding the first point, the Port of Kitakyushu (Hibikinada area) was designated in May 2002 to be "Recycling Port"-a plan to develop a distribution network that uses shipping routes for recycling industries. It is currently under construction. Regarding the second, facilities will be constructed in The Comprehensive Environmental Industrial Complex for the treatment of PCBs. Work began in April 2003 and the PCB treatment facility is expected to be operating in December 2004. These operations are expected to terminate in March 2015.


Success Factors of the Eco-Town Project

There are a number of critical factors for the success of not only this Eco-Town project, but also for recycling and environmental industries in general. Here we summarize five major points:
1. The presence of a large volume of usable waste materials, and consistency in material quality and amount over time.
2. Well-developed infrastructure (large volume collection system, final disposal sites, etc.)
3. Availability of resource-recycling technologies
4. Demand for recycled products
5. Savings in transaction costs (information acquisition, consensus-building, etc.)

Buy examining the city of Kitakyushu in terms of these points, we can also consider the success factors of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town.
Regarding the first criterion, the city of Kitakyushu could be described as having a good supply base in terms of consistent quality and volume of recyclable materials, because it is the home of a large cluster of manufacturing industries, and generates about half the volume of industrial waste of the entire prefecture of Fukuoka.
Regarding the second criterion, a distribution system is already in place for the existing industry, and large-scale managed disposal sites are also present.
Regarding the third criterion, as mentioned above, there are many cases in which technologies from existing manufacturing industries are being used effectively for recycling. One example is the PET and automobile recycling that makes use of the steel production plant operational know-how of Nippon Steel Corporation and related companies. The multi-function core facilities are another example. In addition, there is a medical supplies recycling project based on hemp which uses the technology and equipment of the cement manufacturing industry to use the residue from waste treatment. Most of the major investors in the companies sited in the environmental integrated complex, including the Hibiki Recycling Area, are companies with a strong place in the local economy. Importantly, it is not only capital they are providing-they also provide a foundation for technological aspects of the projects.
Regarding the fourth criterion, in Kitakyushu, a definite market has been formed for recycled materials. For example, most customers are located in the city for the steel and waste steel that is recovered from the plants that recycle automobiles, household electrical appliances, and office equipment. Similar to the issue of the generation of industrial waste, success here would be very difficult without an existing cluster of manufacturing industries.
Regarding the fifth criterion, we could mention that the clustering of industries in Kitakyushu facilitates information exchanges relating to environmental business needs and seeds (opportunities), within the virgin raw material sector, the recycled materials sector, or between these sectors. This aspect is also connected to the ease of obtaining information about waste collection and sales routes for recycled goods. Regarding the transaction costs of building consensus to ensure social acceptance, this cannot be ignored if one recycling company is working alone, but the Eco-Town cluster of companies makes it possible to reduce the costs. The coordinating role played by the government was another big factor in this regard and had a major effect. In the future, it is expected that the clustering of industries inside and outside of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town will help reduce the costs of making commercial applications of the results coming from research institutions, particularly those in the Practical Research Area and the city's Science and Research Park.


Kitakyushu Eco-Town-Evaluation and Future Challenges for Social Asset

In closing we discuss Eco-Town's achievements and future challenges. Regarding the evaluation of achievements, no studies have been done yet that comprehensively and quantitatively evaluate the Eco-Town, so here we must limit ourselves to a qualitative, selective evaluation. Here we can raise two cases.
The first is a life-cycle assessment of the recycling business of West-Japan Auto Recycle, Co., which recycles end-of-life vehicles (ELV). The LCA was done in fiscal 2000 by the Japan Environmental Management Association for Industry (JEMAI) as a model project (subsidized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) of Type III environmental labeling. The analysis of resource consumption considered included energy and mineral resources. Environmental impacts included global warming, acidification of the environment, ozone layer destruction, and water body eutrophication. After evaluating these, the result was that in all areas of impacts, the benefits of recycling were larger in terms of resource consumption and environmental impacts than the option of dismantling and disposing of ELVs. The study showed that for each ELV recycled it is possible to reduce energy consumption by about 13,000 megajoules, and CO2 emissions by 1 ton of CO2.
The case is a study compiled by the Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry regarding the benefits and problems of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town project. The study found that, as of March 2003, there were about 490 persons employed locally, and a total investment of 42.0 billion yen. In addition, the report looked at positive spillover effects and noted that (1) local companies were involved in the Eco-Town project, (2) orders for environmental assessments and consulting companies had increased, (3) orders for engineering and plant makers had increased, and (4) rail was being utilized for the transport of waste materials. Other spillover effects include an increase in environmental products exhibitions, and environmental activities by local industry due to the provision of information through training courses, etc.
Regarding future issues, if we exclude the issues that the recycling industry faces in general, the Kitakyushu Eco-Town project has three major issues. First, the mutual linkages between companies within Eco-Town itself are inadequate. Because there is not yet much collaboration between recycling industries sited at The Comprehensive Environmental Industrial Complex, they are not yet enjoying the possible benefits of being clustered together. To promote trade in recycled products and leftover material, information sharing is essential, but more effort is needed in this area. In addition, if progress is made with treatment of recycling residue at the multi-function core facilities, scheduled to start operation during fiscal 2005, advances will be made toward achieving zero emissions within the area.
The next point is that the links are still weak between the demonstration studies in the Practical Research Area, and basic research, particularly at the Science and Research Park. The results of research facilities located at the Practical Research Area tend to stay in-house, within the company, and in some cases the party withdraws when the test period of about three years comes to an end. It could also be said that results have as-yet been inadequate with the creation of benefits of clustering in the research area, and regional spillover of research findings.
Finally, there is the issue of partnership with citizens, an important issue from the perspective of moving towards a recycling-oriented society. If the Eco-Town initiative is to become something more than just embody an idealized flow-chart of mass production, mass waste and mass recycling, first of all, it is important for recycling under the Eco-Town project to have some impact on the eco-design in the arterial flow (virgin resource-consuming) industries. Secondly, it is important to have some impact on the awareness and activities of citizens in the reduction of emissions, and the expansion of demand for recycled products. Even allowing for the fact that industrial waste forms the core of activities of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town, one could say that there is still some room for improvement regarding impacts on citizens. Ideally, this initiative should not stop at just fostering environmental industries. There remains is a bigger contribution to make: turning society into a true recycling-oriented society, with sound material cycles.


¢£ References

  • Kanmon Region Joint Research Group (2000), Environmental Protection Initiative in the Kanmon Region, Parts 1 and 2 (in Japanese).
  • Kitakyushu Industrial Society Research Institute (2001), Regional Industrial Society Research-Environmental Industry Trends in Kitakyushu City (in Japanese). Kitakyushu: Kitakyushu City University.
  • Kitakyushu Renaissance Vision Evaluation Research Committee. (2003), Report of the Kitakyushu Renaissance Vision Evaluation Research Committee.
  • Sueyoshi, Koichi. 2002. Kitakyushu's Eco-Town zero-emission challenge (in Japanese).
  • Trade and Industry Research Group (2001), Sangyo to kankyo (Industry and environment). Vol. 30, No. 11, pp. 71-76 (in Japanese).
  • Matsumoto, Kyota. 2001. Society of Environmental Science, Japan, (2001), Annual Summary Report-Applying life cycle assessment to used automobile dismantling and recycled businesses. Tsukuba: Society of Environmental Science.
  • Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry (2003), Report of research on conditions the effects of project-formulation support for Kyushu environmental harmony regions-Eco-Towns and recycling businesses seen from the business sector (in Japanese).
  • Eco-Town-related websites (Japanese)
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