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Japan: Waste Disposal and Cleaning Law Amendment

(July 14, 2010) Japan's legislature, the Diet, passed an amendment of the Waste Disposal and Cleaning Law (Law No. 137 of 1970) in May 2010 (Law No. 34 of 2010). The amendment will be effective within one year and covers several subjects. Among them are (1) enhanced control of industrial waste disposal and (2) recycling of waste generated by Japanese companies in developing countries.

Illegal disposal of waste has been a problem in Japan. According to a study done by the Ministry of the Environment, in 2008, 48% of illegal waste disposal was done by business owners who generated the waste. Construction waste makes up 78% of illegally disposed waste. The amended Waste Disposal and Cleaning Law obliges business owners to report the location and other data on waste when business owners store such materials outside the business locations that create them.

The amendment also makes the original contractors of construction work responsible for proper waste disposal. In many illegal construction waste disposal cases, it has been difficult to determine which particular contractor was responsible for which particular waste under the current rule that only the contractor who generated the waste is responsible. Layers of contractors typically exist in Japanese construction projects. The amendment increases fines on business firms who violate the law from ¥100 million (about US$1.1 million) to ¥300 million (about US$3.3 million). (Haikibutsu no shori oyobi seisō ni kansuru hōritsu no ichibu o kaisei suru hōritsu an no gaiyō [Summary of the Law to Amend the Waste Disposal and Cleaning Law], Ministry of Environment (Feb. 2010), Ministry website,

The amendment also encourages recycling of waste generated by Japanese manufacturing companies in developing countries. Some waste generated by Japanese companies abroad includes recyclable materials. In developing countries, it may be hard to recycle such waste in country because of the lack of facilities and technology. Currently, only firms that dispose/recycle waste by themselves can import waste. The amendment makes it possible for firms that have reasons to dispose of waste generated abroad (e.g., a manufacturing company that generates waste or a company that collects its own used parts) to import the waste. (Id.)