1. 52nd Research for Cleanliness:
"Consciousness and Actual Sorting Practice for Waste Collection for Plastic Packages"
300 housewives who live in where recyclable plastics collection service is provided, were interviewed.
|JSDA has been tackling with the usage reduction of container and packaging materials, which are generally disposed of as waste. On the other hand, the number of local governments, which intend to promote the re-use by collecting plastic containers and packaging for recycling, is increasing.
Provided this as a background, we conducted a research on the consumers consciousness on sorting plastic packaging of shampoo and detergent for waste collection, together with the usage of refill proeducts.
This research was carried out among 300 housewives living in Tokyo and other 12 cities in Japan, where plastics are collected separately as resources for recycling. The panel consisted of 100 housewives of 30's, 40's and 50's, respectively.
We conducted this study only for dishwashing detergent, liquid detergent, liquid fabric softener, liquid hand soap/ cleanser, liquid body shampoo, and hair shampoo/ conditioner.
■ About 60% of housewives sorted plastic bottle as "source for recycling".
More than 60% people sort bottle as "plastic or source for recycling" when handling wastes. Then about 20 % of people treat it as "Non-combustible waste", and 10 % of them treat as "combustible waste". There was no difference in this tendency by the type of product.
By the generation, there was a difference: About 70 % of 40's sorts plastic bottle as "plastic or source for recycling", but in 50's it is about 60%. Also, more than 20% of 50's sorted it as "non-combustible", which is higher than other generations.
This result may indicate that the objective and method for sorted waste collection have not yet fully been understood by residents living in the area, where local governments collect plastics separately from other garbage.
Let's take a look at the refill product packaging waste. 50% of housewives sorted as "plastic or source of recycling", and 60% did so for thin layer plastic bottle. More than 20% of housewives sorted it as "non-combustible", for film/ tube type package. Abuot 20% of housewives sorts as "combustible waste".
■ Housewives do rinsing before discarding plastic bottle.
What is the practice, when they discard plastic bottle? About 20% discard them away without rinsing regardless of the type of product. However, more than half of housewives discard after rinsing briefly. Taking into account about 30% thoroughly rinse, we can conclude a majority of housewives discard after rinsing. By the type of product, more than 80% rinsed for dishwashing liquid, liquid body shampoo, and hair shampoo and conditioner. The ratio wo discard without rinsing were 15-17%, lower than the case of other categories of product.
By the generation, more than 30% of 50's housewives thoroughly rinse for all categories,, which is higher than other generations. There is tendency that more older generations do rinsing, for laundry liquid detergent, liquid fabric softener, and liquid hand soap/ cleanser.
On the other hand, the level of rinse gets lower than the case of bottle, while there was no major difference by the type of refill product packaging.
■ Housewives utilize the rinsed water after rinsing as "detergent/ cleaning agent".
The utilization of the rinsed water after rinsing seems to be almost established. In case of the bottles, many use the rinsed water as "detergent/ cleaning agent". More than 70% of them do dish-washing liquid and hair shampoo/conditioner. By the generation, 70-80% of 50's housewives replied so for all categories of product. In contrast, a ratio of 30's, who use the rinsed water is lower than other generations.
In case of refill product, those who utilize the rinsed water after rinsing as "detergent/ cleaning agent" were more in dish-washing liquid than the other categories of products, however not much for refill.
By the generation, more people utilize the rinsed water as the generation getting older, and 60-70% of 50's utilize in all categories of product.
■ Awareness of "Pla-mark*" and others
95% of housewives are aware of "Pla-mark", and 86% regard as helpful. There was no difference by the generation about te level of awareness and helpfulness.
We also investigated the opinion toward the way of discarding wastes. In response to a statement; "we need to sort, because it is a rule", 93% replied "somewhat think so" or "think so".
In response to a statement; "some kinds of packaging are difficult to determine how to sort", 86% replied "somewhat think so" or "think so". Also, 75% of housewives replied "somewhat think so" or "think so", in response to a statement; "some kinds of packaging are difficult to rinse".
About the situation of having fee for waste collection, 7 % of local government have the fee. 47% of housewives replied "agreeable" to the enforcement. This acceptance ratio of 50's is 50 %, the highest than any other generations...
Further, 61% of housewives, who live in the area where the collection is done with charge reply as "agreeable" which is higher than 39% of the answer "not agreeable". On the other hand,the area where it is not charged only 32% answered as "agreeable".
* A label to help consumers sort garbage and hence help local governments promote sorted garbage collection. This is required by "Container and Packing Law for the Promotion of Utilization of Recycled Resources". Other than plastics, there are identification labels for steel can, aluminum can and PET bottle .
An interview with Mr. Ryuichi Sudo (President of The Center for Environmental Science in Saitama, President of Ecological Engineering Institute (Nonprofit Organization)
☆ Prevention of Global Warming is the Most Important Topic for Water Environment
|Mr. Sudo has played an active role as a leader of the water environmental matters for many years. We asked his point of view on future environmental problems, with looking back on his past studies.
[Interviewer] You have conducted a variety of studies related to the water environment and surfactant, as one of contributors to the water environment, for many years. What kind of studies have you been done recently?
[Mr. Sudo] The first item among what I've put my effort is the environmental protection for a aquatic livings.
Then, as the second, the prevention of environmental pollution & eutrophication in closed area such as lakes, inland sea/ bay. Recently, sea related issue like seaweed harvest reduction ssue in Ariake Sea & the Tide Protection Wall development issue in Isehaya Bay are gotten famous. To evaluate these issues, the government organized Examination Committee, and I'm participating it as the chairperson.
As the third, the global warming issue. Global warming has been advances enough now to be recognized by human body. While there are many tasks for CO2 reduction, international cooperation is also progressed. I played a role of mediator, as a chairman of Earth Environment Department for developing the action plan by the council in Ministry of Environment. As such, I, in reality, put most of my time and energy recently as a mediator to sum up various study data for the government or the local governments, rather than doing my own study
[Interviewer] Though slightly old story, what was brought you to work on the study of surfactant?
[Mr. Sudo] It was the time, the synthetic detergents, surfactants and even those wordings were not so known. I worked at Bureau of sewage in Tokyo. In 1960's, we faced issues of sudsing during activated sludge treatment. I started the study at the first time, since we did not know what the cause was.
In the middle of 1960's when people started to use a washing machine, the main ingredient of the detergent was a surfactant called ABS. Based on my research done with foreign literatures, I found that this ABS seemed to be the cause of the problem. Therefore I began the measurement and analysis of the ABS concentration as well as the assessment of its concentration and impact. After all we reached a conclusion that ABS was contributing to the problem, though the concentration was not so high. Then, it raised the necessity to take immediate actions for it.
Though I was still too young to have an influential power at that time, I started doing studies on the test methods on the detergent degradation, its suds level and the degradation rate, thanks to great cooperation of people in the industries, who visited me proactively. It was the beginning of the on-site study. About 40 years ago story.
[Interviewer] Voluntary switch by the industry to so-called "soft detergent", i.e. switching from ABS to LAS, completed in 1972-1974.
[Mr. Sudo] Well, while we also proposed to switch to LAS from ABS, the industry was ahead of us and quickly switched to the soft detergent by themselves. As a result, the biodegradability rate has been improved, and no more sudsing problems at the sewage treatment plants was observed.
Though it was denied with having them later, some researchers reported that surfactants themselves had hazardous/harmful property or teratogenicity, and mass media reported them broadly.
Further, eutrophication issue came out next and made a fuss, since it was said that phosphate contained in detergent caused the problem. In response to this problem, the industry moved to low, and then no phosphate detergent regardless of the scientific fact or whether the real major contributor was.
All of these issues took place about the same time. In this time period, I moved to Institute of Applied Microbiology of Tokyo University, and then joined to National Institute of Environmental Studies, where I became the leader of Land & Water Environmental Laboratory: my major was a river and subsurface water. There, I was requested by the Environmental Agency with being told like "relieve residents' concern", to conduct the toxicity and degradation assessment of detergent. These studies took up considerable number of staff.
It might be so even today, but there was a group of people, who believed "soap is better than detergent". In fact, at the same concentration, synthetic detergent could have somewhat higher toxicity profile than soap. However, soap needs to be used three or four times more than detergent about the amount of usage. Taking this into consideration, it is judged that the toxicity profile of soap and detergent are almost the same.
In other words, it is difficult to unconditionally say which is better, and then I started insisting that both soap and detergent have good points and bad points. It was around 1975-80.
However, for some people who want to propmore using soap did not like this idea, and I was criticized and received repulsion in various forms. However, now it has become some good memory.... I think.
[Interviewer] When you were in the National Institute of Environmental Studies, you conducted a study to compare soap with LAS in the coming water to the sewage. The paper mentioned the fact that the degradability (bio-degradability) rate deteriorated when the soap concentration reached only at double of the standard usage, while the deterioration was not seen until reaching 5 times higher concentration of the standard usage in case of LAS. Local governments which had made soap promotion campaign were considerably shocked by your report.
[Mr. Sudo] Yes, then I was criticized by being said like "Your research is meaningless", or "Are you promoting detergents?" I even received phone calls and letter for criticism directly.
Surfactant, as a chemical substance, has useful, and excellent performance. However, it should be basic to understand that we release it as little as possible so that it provides minimum impact to the environment, because, the convenience that we want and the environmental impact could be a kind of "trade-off". At any rate, it is the basic requirement for a chemical substance that it does not accumulate in the environment, and have high biodegradability, and, needless to say, low toxicity profile.
[Interviewer] Recently, the research on the water quality seem to be not much active in scientific conferences. What's the trend of future research on surfactant, water environment and detergent?
[Mr. Sudo] Only an issue can produce the demand, then it becomes the research target. Thus, the fact that the number of studies is small these days may mean that the environmental impact issue is no longer major one.
The range of chemical substances is broad, and there are other substances which have problems or, more harmful.
Since these substances have more problem and demand, researchers can not spend time for surfactants which does not have much remained significant issues. Then, can we say no further issue is remained for surfactant? I don't think so. However my point of view is from the protection of aquatic livings view point, but not for human.
Roughly speaking, 95% of surfactant in the drainage is handled by the sewerage treatment. However, about 20% of the miscellanenous drainage is discharged directly to rivers without having any treatments. Such water should contain surfactant as a part, so it may have some effect to aquatic insects or plankton. From this point of view, some kind of standards might be necessary, and it is under consideration.
[Interviewer] You are also doing presentations for The Consumer Co-Operative (COOP) etc.,
[Mr. Sudo] COOP had been having a policy not to sell the detergents containing LAS. However, they are changing the policy so that they can sell them at their stores. To do so, they need to provide its reason with scientific proof, to make sure their members and store managers understand. Since the year before last year, I'm receiving requests to make a speech, from COOPs in various prefectures, so frequently, and actually the number of requests is too high to manage. It is hard for me to decline such requests, since I'm the member of Environment Policy, of Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union (JCCU).
I'm accepting such request with the conditions that I'll talk on the positioning of pollution in whole water environment. This is because it is meaningless to talk on which is better: deterget or soap, in the current situation.
To describe in a simple word, I don't like environmental argument which is like Witch Hunting. Environmental argument should not be handled like "true or false".
There are still many people, who think like we will have good environment if detergents are disappeared", but I have a feeling of resistance against it. It looks people with having such feeling tends to stick with their own idea, and are difficult to understand my points. I believe flexibility is the most important to deal withs environmental problem.
Many people tend to forget, but the most important among all environmental issues is the global warming. As you know, Japan has a promise to have our CO2 emission as -6% of the one in 1997, by 2008-2012, under the Kyoto Protocol. We will receive the audit whether we are achieving the goal from next year, and need to submit data. Currently we have still 8.1% more emission. I think, it is strange to stick with detergents related matter, while we are facing more critical issue which may impact the lives on the earth in next 20 years. I strongly propose those people, who insist on the removal of detergents, to change their focus to the global warming issue, and utilize their energy and passion toward in such more worthwhile topics. I strongly hope so.
Since they have been very passionate toward environemtnal matters and have energy, they should be able to understand some day, if they can listen to us. If that happens, that means I can also contribute to our future, a bit.
An interview with Mr. Masaru Kitano (Professor, Meiji University, School of Science and Engineering, Department of Applied Chemistry)
☆ PRTR and Risk Communication
|7 years have been passed, since Pollutant, Release, Transfer & Register Law (PRTR Law) and its system were in place. This interview was conducted to hear an opinion of Prof. Kitano about risk communication, given the situation that it looks some major misunderstanding or misinterpretation of its intention still remains.
[Interviewer] JSDA has been struggling how to deal with the risk communication. On the other hand, certain number of people still claim like "designated materials in the PRTR law are harmful and thus should not be used."
[Mr. Kitano] Understand. Such a claim is not right. PRTR Law surely selects 354 materials as Class I designated chemicals and 81 materials as Class II. The difference between Class I and Class II is "whether the chemical can be existed as it is for long time in the environment." However, considering the reason why those chemicals are designated, it does not necessarily mean that designated chemicals are not safe.
The objective of PRTR law is to manage the chemicals that may be potentially harmful to human health and creatures in the ecosystem, but "Not to prohibit using harmful chemicals" .
Whether the chemical is harmful or not should be evaluated from various aspects. Therefore it is not correct to eliminate designated chemicals nor to replace them with non-designated ones.
[Interviewer] However, some people still say like "LAS should not be used since it is designated in PRTR." In addition, some companies try to promote their products with claiming like "we successfully reduced usage of the designated chemicals" or "we do not use PRTR designated chemicals at all". The problems are, because there is some social tendency to force having such claim, and some are trying to gain profit by utilizing such misunderstandings. They further strengthen the misunderstanding, like "natural product is good, and synthetic product is bad".
[Mr. Kitano] This is also a big mistake. Same thing is happening for the case of GMO (Genetically Modified Organics). It is same idea.
It is not correct to consider like "the chemical is harmful because it is a designated chemical, and we need to replace it".. From the chemical environmental safety stand point, making the amount of emission to the environment as much as possible is important.
The same way of thinking can be observed recently on commercial messages like "Should not use/ not contain designated chemicals" or "Good and safe because it is not natural". They are obviously incorrect.
Taking these into consideration, I strongly believe the school education is really important. I think we need to put more effort on an environmental education even from an elementary school. However, it would be difficult since teachers do not receive such education/ trainings, though.
Eventually, the basics are scientific understanding. Human cannot run in dark even though we are told like "there is no obstacle". The things that are difficult to understand for most of people would be increasing. People tend to come up with immediate refusal, when they cannot understand.
Once it is understood, I think it is up to each individual how to judge. I strongly propose, at the minimum, please stop refusing before trying to understand properly. No one can stop refusing the idea based on the way of life or personal belief, with having proper understanding.
Therefore, the risk communication is not "persuasion.", It is rather "to share and own information each other." "The risk" is, the possibility of facing some danger. "Communication" is to share information, but not to persuade, to win in the argument, nor to force. Reaching the agreement is not always the ultimate goal.
Of course it is great if we can reach an agreement, as a result. However, it becomes persuasion if we have it as an objective from the beginning. A person who has in depth knowledge teaches to those who has less knowledge. This is called as knowledge non-symmetricalness. A person who has in depth knowledge force the information to those who has less: this is persuasion but not risk communication.
While it is natural that there are various ways of thinking and opinions about chemicals, I feel a that there may be the area that the safety and ANSHIN feeling are not linked well. At least, everyone needs to understand in common is that "no risk is impossible". As the starting point, this must be understood. Without having chemicals, our current society cannot exist. So we need to think about how to co-exist and utilize them effectively. This must be the fundamental.
Looking back the historical urgument on detergents, there were some activities influenced by a lot of personal feelings/ emotions such as "likes or dislikes." However, we should now go with a fact based on science so called logical sequence from now on. We must train people how to think scientifically from younger age. Industries also needs to take step-by-step action towards this, though it would take time.
This is not unique in detergent industries, but is common in all types of chemicals.
[Interviewer] Recently, the way of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is getting popular and many companies start having risk communication as a part of its activity.
[Mr. Kitano] Yes, It means, companies realize they are expected beyond compliance. It should be understood that people are aware that something beyond compliance is now demanded. I do not think that CSR is just to follow regulations nor comply only regulation requires.
Complying with regulations is the minimum duty, and CSR demands more than that, toward one step ahead.
In the chemical world, it is the main premise to develop less hazardous (harmfulness unique to the chemical) chemicals, and use it. What is required to consumers is to follow its standard usage. These are duty and a rule. The risk communication is often called as "the bridge between safety and ANSHIN" on top of it. The words of "safety and ANSHIN" often used, but they are the matter of objectivity and subjectivity, and the risk communication is to tie them together. To explain the difference between safety and ANSHIN, I'd say that "safety is objective risk," and "ANSHIN is subjective risk."
In other words, safety is objective thing based on a scientific fact, and ANSHIN is the condition, where people understand and make themselves understood. Expressing ANSHIN in English is difficult. I think there is no proper English word to express this.
Instead, "Sense of security" may be the one. At the same time, no proper Japanese word for "risk". This word does not mean "danger". There is a suggestion recently to call them "safety and reliability" instead.
Basic idea for this is that ANSHIN is subjective and its factor is somewhat difficult to evaluate scientifically. There is a potential question to the proponent on how risk communication can connect safety with sense of security, i.e. subjectivity and objectivity, there.
I understand that JSDA sent questions to the local governments that are doing anti-detergent activities in the regulation or the policy. What was their reaction?
[Interviewer] We think most of local government now understand our perspective; however, there are still some which are stick with their positions. The cities like Naha or Yanagawa had anti-detergent policy. However, they revised/ removed them just after when we sent questions. Fortunately we could get their good understandings. On the contrary, a city like Abiko still continues activity like distributing brochures claiming "you should be a soap user from today", or "Abiko city promotes soap."
[Mr. Kitano] It is a bit surprising to know it. I know Abiko city has been doing "Use soap" promotion since the time the water pollution of Teganuma became problems. But the trigger may be pollution of Biwa lake in Shiga prefecture, that was happened long time ago.
I wonder how such people think about the consumption amount of soap and detergent. Risk communication does not make sense, if the factor of exposure is ignored.
If there are any such local government, I suggest to ask individually "what's the basis and support data on this?"
[Interviewer] Before submitting the questions, JSDA has had face-to-face discussion with considering the communication is the most important We sent the letter of public questions as the last resolution, since local governments insisted that it was necessary to officially receive the questions in written throughout the discussion. There are also some local governments, which replied that they do not intend to change the policy at present, in response to the letter of public questions.
Furthermore, the reply from previous chief officer of Abiko city describes: "(we will not change our policy) Until safety of detergent is proven with having all research result consistent conclusion" and "Until safety of synthetic detergent is perfectly proved."
[Mr. Kitano] Wow, it that true?
I can understand the local governments' situation, that they need to listen the voice of residents, but...... I do not think that Ministry of Environment supports such position. This situation indicates that scientific ways of thinking have not well penetrated.
Let me refer the words of Mr. Torahiko Terada.
"It is easy to worry too much or not worry too much. However, it is really difficult to properly worry."
"Properly worry" is the risk assessment. 100% safe is not possible, and 100% harmful is not possible, either. This is fundamental approach based on science, but this way of thinking has never dealt in school education. We did not learn such way of thinking. I think this is a major source of problem in the current society.