Multistakeholder Initiatives in Waste Management: Examples from Japan

Hari Srinivas
Case Study Series E-041. April 2020

Japan is well known for its clen streets and neighbourhoods, where littering is practically unknown and everyone pitches in to ensure that their surroudings are clean.

From a broader city-wide perspective, there are a number of actions being taken at different levels to ensure that this "clean" neighbourhoods happens. As the examples below show, multistakeholder partnerships between local entities representing the local governments, businesses and citizens groups come together to take action on the different stages of waste management (waste collection, processing, recycling and minimization).

The lessons that these examples illustrate are clear - waste management is not a responsibility of just the local governments, but require conserted action from local businneses and especially direct action from residents and citizens' groups to produce unique localized and customised solutions - whether local rules and regulations, education and awareness, or technology solutions.

While these examples illustrate good practices in waste processing and recycling, Japan still has much to do in terms of waste reduction and minimization. Lifestyle changes that are needed for this to happen still has a long way to go!

  • Recycle tote bag
    Sapporo City and the local Lions Club designed and distributed special tote bags to encourage people to carry recyclables to market with them when they go shopping. Many supermarkets collect styrofoam trays, paper milk cartons, plastic grocery bags and even empty cans.

  • Ibaraki recycling
    Pay by the bag garbage collection is catching on all over the country. In Ibaraki prefecture a coalition of seven communities is improving their recycling and waste handling by requiring residents to put out garbage in special bags.

  • Citizen payoff
    In Kumamoto City in Kyushu, the city has been paying registered citizen groups 3 yen/kg for collecting paper, glass, cans, etc. The 586 registered groups collected over 7300 tons in the ten month period ending last June. In addition, since the program's introduction, the city's regular recycling collection service has experienced a 20% jump in volume. Officials feel the program has been successful not only in reducing waste but in changing the public's awareness regarding recycling.

  • Waste reduction coalition
    In Yokohama, the nation's third largest city, a coalition of 38 groups representing citizens, business and government formed a city-wide group for waste reduction and recycling promotion. It's the first of its kind in the nation. The city already has ward-level groups with a similar purpose so the new group will serve as an umbrella and help coordinate activities among the ward-level groups.

  • Waste Exchange
    As of 1991 there were fourteen industrial waste exchanges in Japan, the first one having been established in Kanagawa prefecture in 1987. Hokkaido came on line with it's program last year and already has had over 1000 inquiries. The exchange, a prefecture-sponsored project, publishes a booklet twice a year and provides a telephone referral service.

  • Alternate pulp
    Paper products made from waste corn and sugar cane are slowly finding their way into conventional markets. Stores in Kyoto are stocking notepaper and stationery made from corn waste and some department stores are using sugar cane paper for shopping bags.

  • Waste reduction
    Aichi prefecture has joined the ranks of government entities forming Garbage Reduction Commissions. The Aichi version is made up of various local governments and citizen groups and plans to undertake at least five different projects including: utilization of collected household recyclables, litter, especially empty cans, appropriate dispasal methods for large garbage items, and using special garbage bags.

  • Construction waste
    The Construction Ministry is setting up an information service for the re-use of waste construction materials. They are starting out with concrete and if that is successful, they will add more materials. Other major components are asphalt, dirt and wood. In 1990, the industry generated 76 million tons of waste nationally, which represents 20% of the entire industrial waste stream.

  • Recycled goods
    One fourth of all supermarkets in Hokkaido have special "recycled goods" sections. Main items are toilet paper, notebooks, aluminum foil and other foil-type products, garbage bags, etc.

  • Buy green
    The Environment Ministry has been providing assistance for governmental agencies to join the Buy Green Network to buy "earth-friendly" recycled items, including toilet paper, copy paper, paper clips, pencils, soap, vacuum bags, etc.

  • Disaster Debris Plan
    The Ministry of Health and Welfare has begun a survey designed to help in the development of a comprehensive natural disaster debris handling system. After the massive confusion of the Kobe and Tohoku, authorities realized they needed to set up regional plans to insure a system of mutual cooperation among various authorities in an area. Main areas of consideration are transportation routes, selection of disposal sites for different kinds of waste and the establishment of training programs for disaster debris handling simulations.

  • Plastic oil
    The Health and Welfare Ministry along with Tachigawa City have begun construction of a plant for making oil from waste plastic. The plant will handle ten tons per day. One kg. of plastic can be converted into 0.7 - 1.0 liters of oil. Both partners are concerned about the impending implementation of the new packaging law and are trying to get prepared.

  • Sendai record
    Community groups in Sendai collected a record 15, 161 tons of recyclables in the first half of this year. Over 9000 tons was newspaper. The backbone of the system is over 1600 kodomokai, groups of mostly younger housewives, who collect in their neighborhoods once every two months or so. The city helps subsidize their activities by supplying dollies, other tools and guaranteed prices.

  • Hiroshima wrap reduction
    Following on the heals of Kyoto and several other places, Hiroshima has begun a program recognizing stores that offer reduced wrapping/packaging and/or collection of recyclable items. Many area super markets, food stores and other small businesses can register and they get a sticker and promotional materials. There are 13 possible items that the city will look at for certification. A business that meets two of them will be eligible for registration. Some of the most likely areas in which to be certified are: 1) simplified wrapping; 2) requesting customers to bring their own shopping bags; 3) collection of styrofoam trays and paper milk cartons; 4) sale of items made from recycled materials; and 5) creation of a waste reduction and recycling organization.

  • Organic wastes
    Izumo, Shimane has begun the use of two specialized trucks for the collection of organic household waste, which in Japan means primarily kitchen scraps. One of the trucks will turn the waste into compost right on the truck. The other truck will make pelletized fuel for incineration, also right on board. The wastes are collected in biodegradable bags. Trials have been very successful, so if full scale operation goes off well, the companies promoting the technology hope to make it widely available.

  • Government compost
    Chiba prefectural offices now have a composting machine in the basement which processes cafeteria waste, tea and coffee grounds and other organic wastes generated in the buildings. The resultant compost is used in area parks. The building generates about 125 tons of organic waste per year which yields about 25 tons of ompost. The machines will digest vegetables in eight hours and fish bones in 48 hours.

  • Construction by-products
    Ibaraki prefecture has instituted a plan aiming at 75 - 85% recycling of construction of wastes. Currently concrete and asphalt are already over 80% and the overall rate is about 70%. However, certain areas such as mud from sewer construction (only about 1%) and soil (50%) are not getting enough attention. The prefecture will set up a special office in cooperation with various companies that will help run a more coordinated recycling campaign as well as manage a newly established stockyard for usable wastes.

  • Office paper recycling
    Members of the Kofu Chamber of Commerce have set up an office paper recycling scheme in the city center. Initially about twenty companies will participate. They will collect all manner of waste office paper which will be collected by a processor. After a certain amount of stock has been built up, the stock will be sent to a paper mill in Shizuoka and made into toilet paper to be used by the same twenty businesses. The plan should serve to offset increasing garbage collection fees as well as help to educate employees.

  • Source Separation Record
    Reidents of a town in Kasuya-gun, Fukuoka, separate their garbage into nineteen different categories, including seven types of glass, three types of paper and two types of cans. Other entities, such as Minamata City and Toyama Prefecture have also emulated the program. In June, Amagi City, also in Fukuoka, began source separation of nine non-burnable types of waste: Aluminum cans, steel cans, four types of glass containers based on color, ceramics and non-bottle glass, metals, and bulky garbage.

  • Organic wastes
    A coalition of citizen groups got together to inaugurate the National Organic Wastes Recycling Network. The organization hopes to tie together all the diverse groups working on organic waste recycling programs nationwide and provide a forum for the exchange of information and support of new projects. Citing the lack of attention being paid by official waste managers and the lack of communication between various sectors working with organic waste such as researchers, bureaucrats, citizen groups, companies, etc, the new network has called for a four point program: 1)with the purpose of recycling organic wastes, study the current methods for collecting and handling burnable wastes (in which organics are always included); 2)Study efficient methods for composting; 3)Information exchange, dialogue among different parties, appeal activities, etc; and 4) the study of food, agriculture and energy use methods.

  • Trash bags
    Onojo City, Fukushima, is an early adopter of a new type of trash bag designed to drastically reduce nitrous oxide emission and eliminate dioxin emission when burned. The new bags, developed by a company in Kagawa, contain a special oxide in the polyethylene base. The oxide reduces NOx emissions by 1/3; stops lead, cadmium and other heavy metals from leaching out of incinerator ash; and prevents the release of dioxin by reacting with chlorides and unburned materials.

  • Dropoff recycling
    Konan Ward in Yokohama has begun a pilot recycling dropoff program. The city already has curbside collection of glass and cans as well as a widespread system of volunteer collection groups for other materials. The new system is meant to cater to people who are unable to use these collection systems due to work schedules or other reasons. The new dropoff site is open from 9am - 4:30pm Tue - Sun. They accept glass, cans, newspaper, magazines, cardboard and cloth

  • Local markets
    Setagaya ward in Tokyo has developed its own line of recycled tissues made from paper collected in the ward and being prepared for sale at drugstores throughout the ward. The paper will be a little cheaper than commercial brands and carry a brand label indicating it is made from locally colected recycled paper.

  • Incinerator ash
    Disposal of ash is becoming more troublesome and costly due to its toxic nature and increasingly severe restrictions on disposal. Many people are looking for disposal alternatives. A small village in Shikoku has become one of the first towns to utilize incinerator ash to make a salable product. They have built a plant that utilizes the ash, along with cement and a special hardening agent, to make paving stones, cement blocks, parking lot blocks, etc. The plant handles about 10 tons of waste per day which reduces to about one ton of ash. This is mixed with about 200 kg of cement and 18 liters of the hardener and made into the various products. The toxic properties of the ash are neutralized.
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