Japanese Initiatives and Processes

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Both the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Plastics Waste Management Institute (PWMI) have been very active in promoting plastics recycling from early in the seventies. In Tokyo, plastics and metals were considered as waste, unfit for incineration and separately collected (1973) and treated in a Nippon Steel shaft furnace. Early Japanese systems, e.g. from Japan Steel Works, Japan Gasoline Co., Kawasaki H. I. Co., Mitsui Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Mitsubishi H. I. Co., Nichimen, Sanyo Electric Co., Sumitomo Shipbuilding, Toyo Engineering Co have been reviewed [14, 26]. A large variety of pyrolysis systems, featuring extruders, tubular reactor units, as well as larger fluidized bed or stirred tank reactor units was tested, as soon as plastics became a visible component of municipal solid waste. More recently various commercial plants for feedstock recycling of waste plastics are operating at a full scale:

  1. 'Liquefaction' units (not to be confused with the hydrogenation processes) using continuous stirred tank reactors, at Niigata and Sapporo.
  2. Blast furnace at the NKK (now JFE Holdings) Mikasa works.
  3. Coke oven pyrolysis by Nippon Steel Corp.
  4. High-pressure gasification by EBARA-UBE.
  5. ASR gasification at Aomori (Ebara Co.).
  6. Glycolysis of PET bottles by Teijin. Separated PET bottles are now used as raw material for polyester fibres.

These Japanese successes are related to the practical implementation of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law, carried out in 1997 for PET bottles and in 2000 for the other plastics. This law affords allocating the cost for feedstock recycling of waste plastics separated in homes. It has created attractive markets and thus the separated waste plastics are even in short supply in Japan. Recovery of plastics increased dramatically since 2000, when the law was carried out. On the other hand, the cost for recycling decreased gradually. This trend suggests that active competition improves both techniques and logistic systems.

The Home Appliances Recycling Law came into full force in 2001 and is to be revised within a few years. In such processes, not only the plastic cases, but also printed circuit boards are recycled. the Law for Recycling End-of-Life Vehicles passed through the Parliament, 2002. Clearly this law should promote the recycling of automotive shredder residue.

The environmental policy of the Japanese Government traditionally has promoted the recycling of waste plastics in Japan [27].

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