The G7 Environmental Ministers Meeting was held in Toyama City on the 15th and 16th of May, 2016. A meeting between environmental ministers has not been held since the previous session in Siracusa, Italy in 2009. Environmental Ministers and other high level representatives from Japan, Italy, Canada, US, Germany, and EU participated in the meeting and adopted the Communiqué, including its annex which is known as the Toyama Framework on Material Cycles. This addition sets the framework for G7 members to strive toward better management of material cycles and the promotion of the 3Rs—ambitiously and in a concerted manner. Based on this successful achievement, G7 members, including Japan, are now taking the lead in tackling the issue surrounding the realization of a Material Cycle Society. At the meeting, the UNEP-IRP and the OECD presented G7 members with their recommendations.
Worldwide discussions on resource efficiency have recently been intensifying. In December 2015, the European Committee released its Circular Economy Package, which is a major package dedicated to the improvement of resource efficiency. In addition, G7 countries have prioritized resource efficiency as one of their major agenda points. At the G7 Summit held in 2015 at Schloss Elmau, the establishment of the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency was agreed upon with the aim of sharing best practices. Also, during the G7 Ise-Shima Summit chaired by Japan, we witnessed other important progress, such as the adoption of the Toyama Framework on Material Cycles.
With these international trends as the backdrop, it is time to consider how Japan should move forward with our own resource circulation policies. It will be necessary to incorporate the perspectives of both defense and offence when creating such policies. We would like to further examine the ways we can utilize our advantages in the future regarding resource circulation policy making.
In response to the invitation from the G7 Elmau Summit in 2015, the UNEP International Resource Panel submitted its assessment report on resource efficiency at the Toyama Environmental Ministers Meeting in May 2016. As background to the recent event, this article provides an overview of progress on international activities and the history of Japanese involvement around key concepts such as The 3Rs and resource efficiency. The International Resource Panel (IRP) was established in 2007 to provide scientific assessments that pertain to sustainable resource management. It has published nearly 20 assessment reports to date. The Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the resource efficiency report issues five key messages, including many references to Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change Targets. The concluding chapter suggests the adoption of national and international targets for resource efficiency and the monitoring of progress toward them. A chapter on best practices points out the importance of a more cross-sectoral, cross-resource and full supply chain perspective.
The Paris Agreement was adopted in COP21 of the UNFCCC, held in December 2015. One aim of the Agreement, to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 ℃ above preindustrial levels”, is urgently needed in order to avoid a 7 meter rise in sea levels caused by the melting of the ice sheet in Greenland. In addition, “Net Zero Emission” by the end of this century has also been proposed as a post-2030 target. The Paris Agreement emphasizes the crucial importace of making immediate changes regarding our use of fossil fuels and stresses that the kinds of energy sources made available on the planet must be limited to renewable energy, nuclear energy and hydrogen obtained from the CCS process being used in oil-producing countries. What is the role of a Circular Economy in this century, when the very foundation of almost all industries must be revamped? A possible solution can be reached only if we work from the idea that we need to thoroughly investigate optimized measures for the integration of arterial and venous industries before the year 2050.
This article shows an overview of the technologies available from materials science as a means of achieving the ultimate goal of creating a Circular Economy. This concept holds almost the same meaning as that of The 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) in Japan and the order of priority is also the similar. Eco-design must be promoted within this and all of the various other technologies need to be very diverse. There must be a framework for the technologies being used and the present states of recycling for raw materials, which are highly mass-produced like plastics, steel and iron, aluminum, other non-ferrous metals and glasses. A production process for the preparation of compounds containing recycled plastics is needed for plastics recycling. Pre-treatment technologies are desired to get the same performance as primary resource production. Physical separation processes are important for aluminum alloys and glass in particular because they are very difficult materials to harness in the melting process. Development of evaluation technologies for environmental impacts is also crucial.
Our lives are supported by the limited resources available on the planet. For this reason, if we are to build sustainable living, the concept of Circular Economy is crucial. In Japan, there are many good initiatives and technologies related to the Circular Economy. However, each initiative tends to be done independently, they are not well known by the general public. To further spread the concept of a Circular Economy, we need to increase our communication and networking. In this article, the following issues are argued : (1) The possibility of introducing the concept of a Circular Economy into central social issues like regional revitalization: this would be possible if communicators could explain how this concept has had a big impact on a wide range of stakeholders ; (2) The importance of networks and systems among the initiatives: here, we introduce “Sustainable Produce and Consumption” initiatives in Portland, Oregon as a case study.
This paper focuses mainly on two topics: principles to be implemented for utilizing more renewable resources and measures for preventing waste generation based on a 3R approach. For the sustainable use of renewable resources, it is important to maintain a situation whereby the utilization rate for renewable resources never exceeds the rate of their production. In addition, the waste generation rate must stay within the natural ecosystem’s capacity to receive it. From a long-term perspective, the use of exhaustible resources must be controlled by tight waste prevention measures, while a societal shift centered upon greater use of renewable resources needs to take place. We must create a society that can sustain itself through a product lifecycle flow that cuts out all avoidable waste generation. The importance of waste prevention has now been widely recognized, and in particular food waste prevention has become a specific point of discussion. It is said that 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year around the world. On the other hand, it is reported that most of this is avoidable. This amount of food waste is the cause of higher GHG emissions. Research now shows that approximately 1 ton of GHG emissions can be lowered with each equal 1 ton of food waste reduction.