Kitakyushu: Where Does Your Old Used Car End Up?


(Image from Mixed Soup)

Yesterday, we noted that Japan's government has named six "Eco Model Cities" as environmentally friendly model cities and will provide them with financial support. One of them was Kitakyushu.

What is striking about the projects are the diversity of ideas how to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Kitakyushu is an industrial city in south western Japan that used to be known as a very polluted place to live. That started to change in the late 1970s when a group of housewives formed an environmental group and lobbied the city to combat pollution from the factories. Amazing what a bunch of dedicated people can do sometimes.Some 30 years later, Kitakyushu is seen as a model city, having received the Global 500 Award from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1990. In 1992, it got the UN Local Government Honours during the Earth Summit. Kitakyushu is active abroad (pdf), and is seen as a human resource development base for sustainable development in Asia.

The city is involved in international projects such as assisting China with the processing of general waste and the improvement of waste water from factories in Vietnam.

They contributed to environmental improvement in Dalian City, China, one of Kitakyushu's friendship cities, by adopting The Dalian Environmental Demonstration Zone Plan and by advancing improvement efforts through the plan. As a result, Dalian City has also received the UNEP Global 500 Award in 2001. These projects are now expanding to other countries as well.

The Objective: Zero Emissions

Then there is the Policy of Kitakyushu Industrial Eco Complex to recycle resources and energies and generate new industries as citywide activities, through the use of local industrial infrastructures.

If you own a car in Japan, this is most likely where it will end up, after you sell it. This is done with the cooperation with the organizations concerned, and to promote environmentally conscious activities in all of the city's business circles.

Many facilities conducting research and development on advanced waste disposal and recycling technologies, with the cooperation of enterprises and universities, are located here - this effort is generating new environment-related industries.

By creating a legal framework for all this, Japan has found a clever way to allocate tax revenue for environmental projects. METI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) discussed such scenario in June 2000:

In the past, the environment was viewed as an unlimited natural resource that could be used free of charge. Because of that attitude, the costs of environmental preservation were not properly reflected in economic activities. In the future, however, it will be important to incorporate environmental preservation costs into the ledger of economic activities, based on the accepted premise that the environment is a limited resource that must be paid for. In actual practice, environmental countermeasures will have to be made more efficient through a concerted effort to minimize environmental preservation costs. This can best be done by preparing a foundation that promotes the autonomous development of the environmental industry, taking advantage of the economic, social, geographical, and historical characteristics of each region, rural district, and city.

That is the goal towards which we are striving.


I think it is great that there is a place in Kitakyushu that will process and take care of my PET bottle (not that I buy that many). Remember when US car makers announced how they would do car recycling, covered here at Treehugger? Japan's car recycling happens at the Hibiki Recycling Complex (pdf) which is worth a visit. If you have ever wondered where your old, used car end up these days, do ask your local authorities, and if they don't know, please tell them about Kitakyushu:

With the current interest in environmental issues and related legislation adding weight to the necessity to recycle, there have been many new recycling businesses springing up throughout Kyushu. Let's take a look at three such companies/co-operatives which are located within the Kitakyushu Eco Town.

The Automobile Recycling Law which will be fully implemented in 2004 requires manufacturers to carry out recycling/processing of car air conditioners, air bags and shredder dust. Shredder dust is the most difficult to process, and is disposed of in landfills. However West Japan Auto Recycle Co. Ltd. located in Kitakyushu City is the first company in Japan to develop a method of recycling which does not produce shredder dust.

The feature of this company's recycling is that the cars are dismantled in a reverse manufacturing process, dismantling one car at a time, recycling and reusing every possible part of the car. Finally, the remaining body is pressed into dice sized chips and processed into ferrous scrap. The non-recyclable shredder dust resin is added to molten iron and naturally disintegrates in the process. This technology has enabled the successful recycling of high quality ferrous scrap, realizing a 90% recycle ratio, the highest in the country. The company is setting the bar higher, developing its technology to enable a 95% ratio in the future.

The Kitakyushu ELV (End of Life Vehicle) Cooperative is a small to medium car wreckers and parts sales cooperative and is the first of its kind in Japan. The seven companies which make up the cooperative, all moved their operations to the Eco Town and formed an auto-recycling block. The cooperative dismantles cars, sells car parts and jointly operates a press, which processes car bodies into ferrous scrap for sale.

After the Automobile Recycling Law comes into force, only facilities which can meet the standards specified by the law will be able to conduct business. By joining forces and locating premises within close proximity the cooperative has been able to improve productivity and develop a high standard of recycling. The cooperative has become a model for small and medium sized wreckers, and people in the car recycling industry from throughout the country are making their way to the estate to study the operations of the cooperative.


(Photos from the annual Kitakyushu Eco-Life Stage event)

Written by Martin Frid at

Kitakyushu: Where Does Your Old Used Car End Up?
(Image from Mixed Soup)

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