Japan forces consumers and manufacturers to recycle electrical goods

The Japanese government hopes that a new law requiring the recycling of television sets, washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioners will cut down on the dumping of used products.

The new law, entering into force on 1 April will require manufacturers and consumers to recycle old televisions, washing machines, fridges and air conditioners, accounting for around 80% of electrical products produced nationally, according to The Japan Times newspaper. The law is being introduced because the government is worried that under the current system, where many used appliances are collected by electronics shops or local governments to be buried as waste, the little land available will be used up in seven or eight years. There is also a huge public problem of dumping waste appliances.

The question that is reportedly most worrying authorities, however, is the public’s willingness to pay the electrical manufacturers for recycling up to 20 million appliances annually. Manufacturers are planning to charge consumers 4,600 yen (US$37) for recycling refrigerators, 3,500 yen (US$28) for air conditioners, 2,700 yen (US$22) for televisions and 2,400 yen (US$20) for washing machines. Consumers will also have to cover the cost of transporting the appliances to new recycling plants which manufacturers have constructed in anticipation of the new law. It is feared that, especially under Japan’s long-term economic malaise, that consumers will dump their appliances if they find costs too expensive and that shops may send appliances to scrap yards instead of recycling plants to cut costs and avoid charging their customers. Fines for companies that continue to dump electrical products will only face a maximum fine of 500,000 yen (US$4,000).

Japan’s Environment Agency also plans for similar laws covering vehicles and office automation equipment.

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