TRASH TO CASH

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS & EDUCATION - CON­TRIB­U­TOR Amitabh Sharma amitabh.sharma@hot­mail.com

How many milk car­tons does it take to make a roll of toi­let pa­per?” asked Yoichi Ishii, sec­tion man­ager of Corelex San-Ei Reg­u­la­tor Tokyo Mill...

HOW MANY milk car­tons does it take to make a roll of toi­let pa­per?” asked Yoichi Ishii, sec­tion man­ager of Corelex San-Ei Reg­u­la­tor Tokyo Mill. The an­swers were way off the mark, rang­ing from 25 to 75.

“Five,” Ishii said as he tore a sec­tion of the car­ton, re­veal­ing the fi­brous core … but wait! Milk car­ton and toi­let pa­per …?

The an­swer is re­cy­cling, which is core and crit­i­cal to the value chain of sus­tain­able liv­ing and also a way of life in Ja­pan. And the city of Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, has given sus­tain­able liv­ing a new mean­ing.

At the Corelex fac­tory, there is more to this story – trucks of dis­carded doc­u­ments, card­board boxes, pa­per from re­cy­cling plants are de­liv­ered ev­ery day.

“We get a lot of dis­carded con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments in sealed card­board boxes,” re­vealed Ishii. “These boxes are im­me­di­ately soaked in wa­ter.”

Af­ter one or two days, the pa­per be­comes pulp, and the me­tal­lic parts – clips, binders, sta­pler pins, and plas­tic from the file cov­ers – are sep­a­rated by cen­trifu­gal force.

Ev­ery ma­te­rial finds use as an end prod­uct.

“The metal is sold as re­cy­clables; the plas­tic is burnt to dry the soaked pa­per; and the ash is col­lected and sold to the ce­ment fac­to­ries as raw ma­te­rial,” Ishii shared.

While the doc­u­ments come free of cost, the train com­pa­nies send their stock of used ticket stubs to Corelex.

“They (the train com­pa­nies) are very keen on re­cy­cling,” he said. “And they pay for this ser­vice.”

On an av­er­age, Ishii said, 1,000 to 2,000 tick­ets make one roll.

The sec­tion man­ager said that the man­u­fac­tur­ing process is one of in­ge­nu­ity, trial, and er­ror, and per­fect­ing the art of this process.

“All the ma­chines in the fac­tory have been made by us,” he said. “We learnt from our ex­pe­ri­ence, im­per­fec­tions and fail­ures to build an ef­fi­cient sys­tem.”

PRIS­TINE AND CLEAN

Ja­panese take pride in what they do and put their heart and soul in it. The fac­tory floors are pris­tine and clean. There is at­ten­tion to de­tail, right from how the hard hats, clean­ing ma­te­rial, and uni­forms are stored to the pro­duc­tion line.

The core man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties are housed on the third floor of the fac­tory. “This is to pre­vent large-scale dam­age in case a Tsunami hits,” Ishii said.

Ev­ery step of the process is au­to­mated to the op­ti­mum, and these pro­cesses are su­per­vised elec­tron­i­cally and by per­son­nel on the shop floor.

The pulp is mixed, pro­cessed, dried, and rolled; passed via a con­veyer belt to be put in tubes; cut to the re­quired size and pack­aged for ship­ment. A set of robots are em­ployed to sort the bulk pack­ages ac­cord­ing to their brands.

“We started us­ing robots to in­crease the ef­fi­ciency,” Ishii said.

Corelex pro­duces 1.2 mil­lion rolls per day made from 100 per cent waste and re­cy­cled pa­per. “The prod­uct is en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and also costs less than toi­let pa­per made from pulp,” Ishii said.

Av­er­age re­tail price for Corelex toi­let pa­per is 200 Yen (J$247 ap­prox) com­pared to 350 - 400 Yen for one made from pure pulp (J$432 - J$495 ap­prox.).

Ishii is proud of what the com­pany has achieved and said it is their mis­sion to cut emissions and ef­flu­ent to zero, which is en­shrined in a metal ‘0’ that sits on top of a fish tank at the en­trance to the fa­cil­ity. “The tank is fed with re­cy­cled wa­ter, and if fish can live and thrive in it, we can cre­ate and sus­tain life for us and for gen­er­a­tions to come,” Ishii said.

The visit to Ja­pan is part of the ‘Pa­cific Is­lands and Car­ib­bean Jour­nal­ists’ Pro­gram’ or­gan­ised by the Tokyo-based As­so­ci­a­tion for Pro­mo­tion of In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion with sup­port from the For­eign Press Cen­tre, Ja­pan.

PHO­TOS BY AMITABH SHARMA

Yoichi Ishii, sec­tion man­ager of Corelex San-Ei Reg­u­la­tor Tokyo Mill, one of Ja­pan’s ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers of toi­let pa­per, ex­plains the use of the raw ma­te­ri­als.

Floppy disc cen­tres, clips, pins, and the other ma­te­ri­als left over af­ter fi­bre is ex­tracted at Corelex San-Ei Reg­u­la­tor Tokyo Mill, Kawasaki city.

Train tick­ets are be­ing used for more than a ride.

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