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Growing Opportunities in Environmental Business

Expectations for Japan in Asia 3R

Mirei Ohara
Fujitsu Research Institute, Research & Development

April 02, 2010 (Friday)

The Fujitsu Research Institute assisted the general management of the Preparatory Meeting and Inaugural Meeting of the “Regional 3R Forum in Asia,” hosted by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 2009.

1. Background of 3R Promotion

Japan became economically affluent under a one-way social system of mass production, mass consumption, and massive generation of waste in the 20th century. The environment was neglected in this process, leading to depletion of natural resources and pollution from toxic substances in industrial waste. In particular, the mineral poisoning incident at the Ashio Copper Mine and the four major pollution-related diseases have become significant social problems. The squeeze on resources and energy as well as the decreasing capacity and increasing cost of landfills due to a rise in waste are also problems that have emerged. Facing these challenges has raised awareness on the importance of waste management and recycling measures. The Basic Law for Establishing a Sound Material-Cycle Society, launched in 2000, advocates a sound material-cycle society that coexists with the environment.

This law introduced the concept of 3R, which refers to reduce, reuse, and recycle regarding waste and is a keyword in realizing a sound material-cycle society(*1). “Recycle” is broadly divided into two methods: material recycling that uses waste as raw materials for products, and thermal recycling that collects thermal energy during incineration for reuse. An effective order for minimizing waste is considered to be (1) reduce; (2) reuse; (3) recycle; (4) thermal recycle; (5) appropriate disposal. In other words, do not make, buy, or receive unnecessary things (reduce); use again if possible (reuse); recycle as raw materials after use (recycle) or use as thermal energy when incinerated (thermal recycle); and appropriately dispose of only what cannot be recycled (appropriate disposal).

2. Background of the Regional 3R Forum in Asia

Former Prime Minister Koizumi proposed the “3R Initiative” at the G8 Sea Island Summit hosted by the US in 2004. The “3R Initiative” promotes development of sound material-cycle societies through 3R primarily among the G8. Japan's proposal to establish a “Regional 3R Forum in Asia” as part this initiative won approval at the East Asian Environmental Ministers’ Meeting held in October 2008 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

3. Establishment of the Regional 3R Forum in Asia

In June 2009, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment hosted the Preparatory Meeting of the 3R Forum in Tokyo. Discussion focused on priority issues to be addressed, corresponding activities and programs of international organizations and aid agencies, and a draft of the Tokyo 3R Statement to be adopted at the Inaugural Meeting. In November 2009, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment co-hosted the Inaugural Meeting of the Regional 3R Forum in Asia with the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) in Tokyo. Delegates from 15 Asian countries, representatives of 16 international organizations(*2), and 3R and waste management experts adopted and launched the “Tokyo 3R Statement towards the Establishment of the Regional 3R Forum in Asia.” Among the decisions made were to improve policy dialogue and collaboration regarding 3R, support information-sharing and the spread of 3R efforts in each country, and provide a foundation for networking among interested parties. Under the Forum, 3R national strategies will be promoted in each country through following up on individual efforts and sharing and spreading best practices of waste management and 3R. The next meeting will be held in Malaysia in 2010.

4. Framework of the Tokyo 3R Statement

The Tokyo 3R Statement raised the following as three priority areas related to the private sector:

1. Mobilize financial resources into 3R measures and activities. (In particular, search for 3R promotional measures through pilot projects for achieving more sustainable production and consumptions patterns, resource conservation, and an environmentally friendly society.)

2. Develop and implement effective policy mechanisms such as the Extended Producer Responsibility(*3), which provides incentives for minimizing waste and designing recycling-friendly products.

3. Develop and transfer Environmentally Sound Technologies(*4) related to waste management and 3R, including technologies that meet the needs of developing countries and are cost-effective and sustainable.

The main point in these three priority areas is that private companies must promote 3R, starting with creating products that are environmentally-friendly throughout the life cycle(*5), and develop and transfer technologies that meet the needs of developing countries. Japan is expected to drive forward 3R domestically while also spreading its advanced 3R technologies and promoting 3R overseas. As rapid Asian economic growth continues to spur the movement of goods within the region, 3R represents a significant business opportunity and a chance for Japan to assert a strong presence in the international community. Governments, international organizations, and aid agencies will develop frameworks to drive these challenges even further. Companies are entering an era where environmentally-friendly business provides greater economic and social incentives, and green management is increasingly important.

In addition to this case, FRI provides research studies on formulating national strategy, domestic and international research studies for examining and implementing government policy and corresponding support services for conference management, and business consulting that leverages such research and services.

5. Towards a Sustainable Society

Lowering carbon through improved energy efficiency and the introduction of renewable energies is currently gathering great interest. To create a sustainable society, it is important to achieve a sound material-cycle society through 3R and waste management measures, strive to coexist with nature, and achieve balance between the three elements of the environment, economy, and society. This requires developing comprehensive structures that involve not only governments and companies but also consumers. Collaboration among governments, companies, and consumers is necessary to realize a sustainable society with an environmental, economic, and social balance.

FRI will continue to contribute to creating a sustainable society by providing research studies and consulting services.


*1 There is also the concept of “5R,” which adds “refuse” (don’t buy what will become garbage) and “repair” (mend and use again) to “3R.”

*2 Inaugural Meeting of the Regional 3R Forum in Asia. Participating countries: Japan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Participating international organizations and aid agencies: the Asian Development Bank (ADB); Asian Institute of Technology (AIT); Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED); Asia Productivity Organization (APO); Basel Convention Research Centre for the Asia and Pacific Region in China (BCRC China); Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ); Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES); International Labour Organization (ILO); Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Secretariat of the Basel Convention (SBC); United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD); United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP); and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

*3 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): a policy approach in which producers take equivalent financial or physical responsibility regarding the handling or disposing of used products (Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry).

*4 Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs): technologies that protect the environment, are less polluting, use resources in a sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle all residual wastes in a more environmentally acceptable way than the technologies for which they are substitutes (from the Earth Summit “Agenda 21”).

*5 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the assessment indicator, evaluates scientifically, quantitatively, and objectively across the entire life cycle of a product (raw material collection, production, distribution, use, recycling and waste) (Ministry of the Environment).