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Owners Responsible for Recycling Old Household Appliances

Date Posted: 2001-04-06

A new law making the owners of old electric household appliances responsible for disposing or recycling the items they want to discard took effect April 1.

According to the new law, consumers are responsible for paying fees that cover the cost of recycling, collecting and transporting of old appliances when they want to throw them away. The law specifically lists air conditioners, TV sets, refrigerators and washing machines. The law aims to decrease the amount of garbage that is rapidly filling the nation’s garbage dumps, and to recycle used appliances. Another aim is to encourage the manufacturers to design recycle-friendly products. However, there are concerns that the new cost burden on consumers will increase illegal dumping.

The fees charged to the customers vary and are set by local governments, retailers and manufacturers. The country’s appliance manufacturers have built several jointly owned recycling centers. Their idea is to take the old appliance in for recycling when a customer comes to purchase a new one, and use the transaction as a tool for attracting customers.

The law was enacted because of the disastrous situation in the nation’s garbage dumps – Okinawa’s dumps are said to have capacity for only less than two years left, and no one wants a new dump in their neighborhood. Another fact is that people are dumping perfectly recyclable appliances.

The new law names only those four appliances listed above. But the law also mandates that retailers have to transport the old appliances to designated areas where manufacturers take over and recycle them. The manufacturers separate them into steel, copper, aluminum and glass. The law requires them to recycle 50% or more of washing machines and refrigerators, 55% or more of TVs and 60% or more of air-conditioners, measured by their weight. Non-recyclable parts are disposed of in appropriate way.

As the law stresses the importance of recycling to conserve environment, it also puts a share of the cost burden on consumers. The nation’s manufacturers of such appliances have jointly set recycling fees that everyone has pledged to charge. The fee is ¥2,400 for a washing machine, ¥4,600 for a refrigerator, ¥2,700 for a TV set, and ¥3,500 for an air-conditioner. The fees for collecting and transporting the old appliances are set by local governments and retailers.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that people have been used to have those appliances collected by our local governments for free along other garbage or have been taking care of by retailers in exchange for new items bought. From now on, people have to pay their share. Okinawa is already full of dumped cars, and no one wants even more dumped electric appliances along the roads sides.

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