Surviving in an Age Where the Environment Is a Major Factor of Competition
Takashi Gunjima, Professor Department of Economics, Doshisha University

In 1900, Japan enacted the Waste Cleaning Law. Written to "clean up waste and keep the environment clean", this law promoted waste management by incineration and landfill disposal for most of the 20th century, from the perspective that proper waste treatment (incineration of raw waste [high temperature disinfection] to prevent the spread of contagious diseases) was necessary for public sanitation and hygiene. To achieve the objectives set forth in this law, environmental technology was obviously necessary and, as the saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Hence, the law brought about the creation and development of treatment and disposal technology. Nevertheless, the end-of-the-pipe technology that incineration and landfill represent takes as a pretext that waste will be produced and, though efforts have been made over the years to adapt to increasing volumes and greater diversification of waste types, the limitations of these technologies are beginning to show. Of course, efforts to develop sophisticated treatment and detoxification techniques continue energetically in the search for "safe, sound" technology. In this way, Japan has been able to enjoy an affluence second-to-none. In 2000, Japan enacted the Basic Law for Establishing of Recycle-based Society. It constitutes in all likelihood the first step towards creating a sustainable society that underscores the environment, which is necessary to make the switch from the "disposable affluence" of the 20th century to a new kind of "affluence that balances the environment and economics," which will mark the 21st century. As the fundamental principles, the law calls for the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) and the sharing of responsibility between polluters large and small, in an attempt to shift policy from the downstream waste management of the past to upstream waste management. For this, clean technology and waste enrichment technology are needed to prevent waste generation and, in the event that waste is produced, utilize the untapped resources in it. Several individual recycle laws have been based on the Basic Law for Establishing of Recycle-based Society. The Container and Packaging Recycle Law lead to the development of technology for reducing plastic containers using a blast furnace or coke oven and a reducing agent, as well as oilification technology and polymerization technology for PET bottles. The Electric Household Appliance Recycling Law and Automotive Parts Recycling Law raise expectations that technologies will be developed to recycle products and parts, in addition to technologies for reducing energy consumption. The same goes for the Construction Material Recycling Law. The Food Recycling Law is pushing the development of biomass technology centered on methane fermentation and biodegradable plastics using polylactic acid, in addition to the improvement of existing composting and feed production technologies. Thermal recycling is another promising technology. Also within the field of view are eco-friendly design, recyclability, decomposition factor and the development of products of even greater durability. The Soil Contamination Law is also creating more opportunities to utilize a vast array of cleanup technologies. The stiffening of environmental regulations is not having the effect of a head wind on the eco-business but that of a tail wind. Technology, process and product innovation are leading to a competitive superiority where the environment is of concern. In the 21st century, competitive superiority will be determined by "price, quality and environmental-friendliness".

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