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In Focus

Good Practice Cases of the disaster waste management after the Tsunami in Japan

June 3, 2011
Waste Management Division,
Ministry of the Environment, Japan

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The disastrous earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011 has left innumerable disaster waste such as debris and rubble of the smashed houses, buildings and other concrete structures, and scrapped cars and ships. The waste management policies to deal with this disaster waste are mainly arranged by city councils, prefectural authorities, and Ministry of the Environment in Japan. The total quantity of the disaster waste is estimated to amount 25 million tons. Since the presence of the waste could be obstacles to reconstruction, quick removal and disposal of the waste is indispensable.

The administrative actors mainly responsible for the waste management are the local authorities, and among their current management some outstanding devices and methods can be seen. The following “Good Practices” are a few of such devices, which are encouraged for the other local authorities to reference or imitate.

Case 1: Separating disaster waste

(1) Problem

The disaster waste in almost all cases is a chaotic mixture of various sorts of debris and rubble, including concrete, wood, metal, plastic, sand and sludge. Since it is difficult to prepare waste disposal site with enough room for this extraordinarily large bulk of waste, it is of vital importance to utilize or recycle the waste, which can be achieved only on the basis of intensive efforts of separating the waste.

(2) Policy-approach

For the first-couple of weeks after the tsunami, most of the officials at the coastal local governments insist, in the face of gigantic bulk of waste, that its separation is impossible and started to remove it altogether without separation. Some of the local governments, however, have attempted to perform intensive separation at ad-hoc waste yards, and proved that separation, although taking longer time for the beginning, makes the disposal considerably efficient and the disposal time as a whole can be much shorter.

Among these governments taking advanced actions are Sendai city and Oarai town. In the ad-hoc waste yards in these cities, the wastes are separated mainly into metal, home appliances, tires, concrete, wooden waste, and dangerous goods such as fire extinguisher and compressed gas cylinder. Separation will accelerate the removal from the ad-hoc yards, because each pile of pure material can be resource with economic value which can be sold nationwide. Moreover, products produced by this material recycle can be supplied to the reconstruction in the devastated areas.

This advanced case has been introduced as a model to the other damaged local governments, and separation has been encouraged not only for environmental consciousness, but also for acceleration of the waste disposal and reconstruction. Now that most of the coastal local governments share this conclusion, separation is performed intensively in most of the areas.

Case of Sendai city

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Large refuse
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Metal

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Home appliances
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Concrete

Case of Oarai-machi town

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Wood
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Concrete

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Home appliances
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Dangerous goods
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Tire and straw mat

Case 2: Using flag to clarify the wish of the real estate owner

(1) Problem

The national government has set a guideline to manage the disaster waste, indicating that when a local authority attempts to dismantle or remove damaged houses or structures, it needs to take account of wish of the owner, whether if the owner wants to remove the waste from its property or not.

A cost of this effort, however, is considerable, since the identification of the owner itself requires a large amount of time and human resources. An effective method of identifying the wish of owners is necessary for an efficient administration.

(2) Policy-approach

Watari town office in Miyagi prefecture has set a rule that real-estate owners express their will for or against the removal by putting flags. The red ones show their will that the damaged houses or buildings be removed together with other debris and rubble on their lands. The yellow ones indicate that only debris and rubble within the premises need to be removed and the damaged houses or buildings be left untouched. Owners put green ones to express that the houses or buildings must be untouched and they do not want anything on their lands to be withdrawn.

This approach makes it much easier for real-estate owners to express their will, and for town-hall staff to recognize it in working on the spot, which will lower the administrative cost.

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Red flag
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Yellow flag
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Green flag

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