Closing the loop: Kao joins Tokyo resource circulation project to help cut down on single-use plastic waste

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Kao Corporation is among the five companies selected to participate in a new plastic recycling initiative. ©GettyImages
Kao Corporation is among the five companies selected to participate in a new plastic recycling initiative. ©GettyImages

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Japanese personal care major Kao Corporation is among the five companies selected to participate in a new plastic recycling initiative by Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The New Business Model for Sustainable Use of Plastics initiative is a resource circulation model project to recycle single-use plastic to new packaging.

It will involve cross-industry cooperation with four other organisations: Toppan Printing, Ichikawa Kankyo Engineering, VIAX and GENKI Net for Creating a Sustainable Society.

The project involves the development of refill film packaging, tack labels that can be easily peeled off and bottle containers made with recycled plastic.

In addition, the project aims to establish and a resource circulation system including collection of used packaging.

"To effectively solve the problem of single-use plastics, one of the most critical issues involving plastic waste, a platform needs to be created that allows more companies in the product value chain to easily participate,”​ said Yoshihiro Hasebe, Representative Director, Senior Managing Executive Officer and Senior Vice President of Global Research and Development, Kao.

“We are aiming to promote this project to the world as a new solution for plastic waste from Japan that leads to the creation of resource circulation in society."

According to Kao, it will lead the design of the packaging which will use mono-materials or recycled plastics.

This project would give the firm access to use advanced recycling technology, packaging design and manufacturing technology to recycle single-use packaging materials.

For this project, Kao will develop packaging prototypes using recycled plastic as well as mono-material refill film packaging prototypes.

Kao has already developed and distributed eco-friendly refill film packaging such as the Raku-Raku Refill Pack through its brands.

The developed packaging will be tested then processed into highly pure plastic pellets which will be remade into packaging, thereby closing the loop on plastic waste.

If successful, the company aims to use this system to create its refill film packaging, which it believes holds massive potential to reduce plastic waste, said Hiwako Yoshino of Kao’s Corporate Communications.

Advancing recycling initiatives

As a key player in personal and home care in globally, Kao has been taking steps to reduce its use of plastics, such as developing and promoting the use of refills and making more compact packaging since the 1990s.

Yoshino said the company views resource circulation as “very important” ​on the road towards sustainability, especially since recycling products has not proven effective.

“Besides PET bottles used for beverages, recycling of other plastics including the plastics in product packaging has not made much progress. Much of this plastic is so-called single-use plastic and gets incinerated with energy recovery or ends up simply incinerated, in landfills, or exported overseas.”

With this project, the company also hopes to play a part in helping to develop local facilities for plastic processing, which it believes has become crucial.

“After China restricted the import of waste plastics, resulting in restrictions on the export of plastics overseas, needs for domestic processing of these other plastics have exceeded capacity. In addition, the need to combat marine plastic waste also necessitates a system for domestic resource circulation of these other plastics,” ​said Yoshino.

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