second-use products, and of by-products (Yumoto et al., 1994). This responsibility includes voluntarily conducting product (life cycle) assessments for improving recyclability under the guidance of relevant government ministries. In October 1991, the government proposed the largest amendments in 20 years to the existing Waste Disposal and Public Cleansing Law. The amendments introduce waste reduction at source and separation, recycling, or both before waste generation (in Article 1, Purpose); require preliminary product assessment for proper disposability (in Article 3, Corporate Responsibility); and add corporate responsibility to recover certain waste designated by the Minister of Health and Welfare as "indisposable in nature" (in Article 6.3, Collaboration of Corporations).

To promote this upstream approach in industry, in October 1992 MITI released a guideline, The Voluntary Plan, and in February 1993 JEA published a similar document, Action Program for Environmentally Conscious Cooperates. Both guidelines align with the Keidanren (1991) Global Environment Charter.

The latest government environmental policy initiative is the Basic Environment Law (BEL) of November 1993. As early as in March 1993, after 15 months of formal consultation and discussion with industry, the Central Pollution Abatement Council, JEA's Nature Conservation Council, and several different government ministries and agencies, the government sent BEL to the 126th session of the Diet. The bill's passage into law was rocky: It was debated for 58 hours in the Lower and Upper Houses. It was due to be passed into law in June 1993, but the Lower House was dissolved suddenly in the midst of political turmoil, and the bill automatically became null. The same bill, however, was proposed to the 128th Session by the new administration and was passed on November 12, 1993.

The new legislation, in principle, is an integrated national environmental policy act that incorporates the former Basic Pollution Control Law, the Nature Conservation Law, and the government's basic policy principles for global environmental conservation. In the context of industrial ecology, BEL includes consideration of environmental load in addition to kogai, or pollution; directions and goals of a future sustainable economic society, including extended corporate responsibilities; and government policies to promote and encourage corporate and other efforts to enhance environmental performance. Some articles of particular importance in this legislation are listed in Appendix 2.


Many of these initiatives mirror the vision Glenn T. Seaborg, an American Nobel laureate in chemistry, had in 1974. He forecasted development of a steady state world in which resources are recycled and used with maximum efficiency. He said: "We will be creating a 'recycle society' … in which virtually all materials used are reused indefinitely and virgin resources become primarily the 'make-up' materials.…" (Seaborg, 1974). Having recognized all the constraints

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement