There is Nothing Useless in the World – Lesson Learned from SETM Asia 2013

Tulisan ini telah dimuat di Harian Umum TRIBUN LAMPUNG  dalam Rubrik CITIZEN JOURNALISM, 24 Oktober 2013.


On 15th and 16th of October 2013, I had the opportunity to participate as an observer in the activities of Eco-Town seminar for Managers (SETM) Asia 2013, organized by UNIDO and the city of Kitakyushu at the Koryu Centre, International Village, Yahata Higashi, Kitakyushu, Japan. UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) is one of the UN agencies based in Vienna, Austria, which aims to promote industrial development for poverty reduction, globalization, and environmental sustainability. While Kitakyushu is one of the largest industrial cities in Japan which has been proclaimed as the Eco-Model City of Japan in 2008. One of the largest sanitary equipment company in the world, TOTO, established its first and biggest factory in this city. UNIDO and Kitakyushu city government has poured cooperation in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which has just been updated. One of the implementations is in the form of this SETM activity.

SETM is an international seminar held once a year elaborating the concept and management of Eco-Town for policy makers and technical managers in the field of environmental management for the industrial areas areas in developing countries. The main objective of this seminar is to learn models of the Kitakyushu Eco-Town to initiate policies that favor the formation of Eco-Town and take lessons from the implementation of waste recycling and integrated waste management. I was able to attend this event because recommendation of Toshizo Maeda, Principal Policy Researcher at IGES-KUC (Institute of Global Environmental Strategies – Kitakyushu Urban Centre) and permitted by Junichi Sono, Deputy Director of Kitakyushu Asian Centre for Low Carbon Society who was arranging this event.

The event was opened by Toshikazu Matsuoka who is the Chief Executive of the Environmental Bureau, Kitakyushu city government and also Carmela Centeno, representative of UNIDO. On the opening speech was emphasized that the purpose of this seminar is primarily to learn about waste management and technology. It is quite different from my study interests which are architecture, landscape, and urban planning, but I am interested to follow from the point of view of sustainable environmental development. After opening ceremony, the MC introduced the participants one by one. It turns out the seminar was attended by ministry officials and private parties from various countries namely Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Therefore I am quite proud to be amongst the staff of ministries of other countries that when in Indonesia, it will be very difficult to get a chance like this.

The first session was conducted by Shinsuke Takeuchi of Environmental Bureau, Kitakyushu about waste management in the city of Kitakyushu. He explained that almost all of the garbage in Kitakyushu ranging from household waste, industrial waste, municipal waste, and others, end up in the incinerator. The data from year 2009 showed that 447,000 tons of waste burned in the incinerator in Kitakyushu. The left-over of the burning went to landfill. Meanwhile there is also a recycling facility that processes household waste and also industrial waste that can still be recycled. Data from 2009 also showed that with a population of 981,000 inhabitants, almost the same as the city of Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, Kitakyushu produced household waste of 370,000 tons. But the separation of waste committed by people already well underway .

Waste separation in Kitakyushu is using the following categorization which are first, garbage cans and glasses in the brown color category, then PET bottles in the orange color category, then plastic waste or other recyclable waste in the green color category, and last, household waste (from kitchen) and others in the blue color category. Each color indicates the color of the plastic bag used to dispose the waste. Garbage disposal time is different for each category and scheduled in each district. For example waste of blue category can be disposed twice in a week, while waste of green category only once a week. Disposal time is synchronized with garbage collection time by the government with the garbage truck. Disposal sites were set up for each location of residence area. In some locations, waste disposal facilities are provided, but in other locations, garbage is collected at the road curb, thus easily accessible for garbage truck. People in the society is responsible for waste separation, the government is responsible for the collection and final separation of waste, while the private companies are also responsible for waste recycling. Steel or aluminium can will be processed into steel or aluminium again, so will glass bottles become glass again. PET bottles can be recycled into carpet or fabric for basic clothing material.

At this session was also explained about 3 units of Kitakyushu incinerator facilities with advanced technology in burning organic and inorganic waste without harming the environment and even generate electrical energy. Although, the investment value for these facilities is very high. To build an incinerator facility with capacity of 1 ton needs a cost of $300,000. So suppose the production of waste per day in the city of Bandar Lampung is about 100 tons and also suppose only 50% of this goes to the incinerator, meaning the costs are $15 million. Extremely large indeed, but worth the price of the future of our children and grandchildren. There is also an explanation of how to introduce and promote waste recycling system to the public through brochures, direct meetings, videos, TV commercials and training before and after the system was implemented.

Then we proceed to the 2nd session of the SETM about the Eco-Town Concept by Sato Meiji from the Eco-Town Office. In the era of 1950s, Kitakyushu was famous for very high level of pollution both air and water pollution due to industrial activity which was growing rapidly. Polluted sea in the surrounding was well-known as the Sea of Death. But thanks to the cooperation between government, private sector, and its inhabitants, Kitakyushu now has been changed to a better environment. Meiji explained that initially incinerator used for the purpose of maintaining the public health. Due to limited space in Japan, open dump waste facility will harm the health of the inhabitants. To establish public awareness of the process of waste separation is also not easy. Japanese society took around 30 years to be able to implement waste separation system properly. In the environmental point of view, there are three elements of sustainability which are low carbon society, circulation society, environmental conservation. Low carbon society means that the public are aware of the danger of Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from motor vehicles, air conditioning, and others as well as trying to reduce it. While in broad outline, the circulation society is networking society and environmental conservation is to protect and preserve the natural environment.

As mentioned earlier, in 2008, the city of Kitakyushu was elected as Eco-Model City of Japan. The purpose of this program are the welfare of the community, 40% of economic growth, and the reduction of CO2 emissions. More detailed targets for CO2 reduction are 30% in the scale of the city in 2030, 50% in the city and, 150% scale in the scale of Asia in 2050. In regard to the latter targets, it means that Kitakyushu will try to help other cities in Asia to reduce its CO2 emissions by actively cooperating with international bodies and other cities in Asia such as Surabaya city that has become one of its Sister City.


Before being elected as Eco-Model City of Japan, in 1997 Kitakyushu has initiated Eco-Town Project, which was focused in the area of Hibikinada which was the area of land reclaimed from the ashes of the incinerator. There are research centres and waste treatment industries. But then starting from 2004, Eco-Town Project also was being developed in other places in the city of Kitakyushu. For example, for the promotion of environmental industries, there is a facility called KSRP (Kitakyushu Science and Research Park), a collaboration of educational, research, and industry facilities. There are 4 universities, 16 research centres, and 54 companies located in KSRP. In 2006, there were 26 Eco-Town selected throughout Japan. There are four stages in the Eco-Town Project: managing people, recycling waste, promoting environmental industries, and collaborating industry with waste management.

In the afternoon session, participants were taken to visit Hibikinada. In Hibikinada we received briefing in Eco-Town Centre by one of the staff. Every year Eco-Town Centre is visited by approximately 100,000 visitors. After briefing, participants were invited to see the recycling facilities such as Home Appliances Recycle, Recycle Automobile, and Nippon Magnetic Dressing. In the Home Appliances Recycle facility, participants observed directly the process of dismantling  the worn out electronic equipments e.g. TV, refrigerator, LCD, and so on. In Japan, electronic equipment if it is damaged or worn out, handed over to a recycling company by  paying a fee. In Indonesia, let alone to pay the fee, people is reluctant to even sell it to junkman. As a result the used electronic equipment is piling up in warehouses for years.

Then in the Automobile Recycle facility the participants observed the process of used cars being destroyed until producing the final result as the photo below. Try to imagine that red box-shaped object was previously a luxury car.

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At last, participants visited Nippon Magnetic Dressing. Here they explained the concept of Urban Mining which is processing the parts of electronic gadgets that have been discarded (e-waste) such as mobile phones, smartphones, and so to obtain the content of precious metals such as gold and silver. By urban mining in Japan, they would get 16% of the gold content in the world or 80 times of natural minings. That is surprising fact that closed the first day. Only now I know the details of the recycling industry and its potential environmental benefits.

On the second day, the participants were brought back to the Eco-Town Centre, to get an explanation from AMITA Corporation which is a company in Japan engaged in the business of recycling and environmental solutions. The vision of this company is “there is nothing useless in the world”. Participants then visited one of the factories of AMITA Corporation in Hibikinada with on-site explanation of how the waste mixed and processed into raw materials of cement.

Then we visited the Human Media Creation Centre to get an explanation of the Kitakyushu Smart Community Creation Project. This project aims to increase public awareness of the importance of saving electricity with introducing a system called Community Energy Management System (CEMS). One of the method also being implemented is Dynamic Pricing, where electricity fare will rise if the use of electricity rising and vice versa. The idea is that when fare is high due to high usage, then the user will reduce electricity use until the fare falls back. In this way the use of electrical energy can be better controlled. It is currently being tested for use in a private apartment with a system called HEMS (Home Energy Management System).

As the closing activity of the second day, the participants visited the Nippon Steel and Sumikin Texeng Co., Ltd. which focuses on energy and technology businesses. The SETM was actually still going on up to two days in advance with the following activities: Eco-Techno exhibition, meeting with companies, the final discussion, Workshop on Eco-Town Management, and closed with the Closing Ceremony with the distribution of certificates from the Mayor of Kitakyushu.

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