April 30, 2003



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.8 (April 2003)

In the December 2002 issue, we featured "Green Purchasing and Green Procurement in Motion in Japan."

To respond to requests from our readers about the Green Purchasing Law, we now introduce the law in more detail and the results of research by the Ministry of the Environment to determine the extent to which environmental impacts have been reduced and how much the market for green products has expanded due to the law.

As explained in the December issue, the Japanese government adopted a series of laws to address the pressing issue of waste disposal facilities being pushed to capacity in April 2000.

These laws include the Basic Law for Establishing the Recycling-based Society, the Law on Waste Disposal and Cleaning, the Law for Promoting Effective Utilization of Resources, the Law for Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging, the Law for Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances, the Law on Construction Material Recycling, the Food Recycling Law, and the Law on Promoting Green Purchasing.
(Our JFS site has a pages of links for many of the environment-related laws in Japan.)

The laws on recycling were adopted to reduce the 400 million tonnes of industrial waste and 50 million tonnes of general waste generated annually, and to cut down on the volume of waste being sent to final disposal facilities. The Green Purchasing Law was enacted to promote recycling, so that recycled products would be better accepted in the market.

Link to the Green Purchasing Law: The objectives of the Green Purchasing Law are to "promote and disseminate products and services (eco-friendly goods) that contribute to reducing the negative impact on the environment and to build a society with less burden on the environment and is sustainable." To that end, the law encourages the public sector, including the government, (1) to promote the procurement of eco-friendly goods, and to (2) provide information on such goods.

As early as January 2001, the government issued basic guidelines and a list of 101 designated procurement goods and their standards. In 2002, 50 more items were added to the list of designated procurement goods, and the government decided to add 17 items pertaining to public works activities. In February this year, 24 more items were added to the list of designated procurement goods.

The basic guidelines and other materials have been translated into English. (See

The categories of designated procurement goods include the following: paper, writing materials, fixtures and furniture (chairs, desks, shelves, coat hangers, umbrella stand, bulletin board, black board, white board, etc), office electric appliances (copying machines, personal computers, facsimile machines, etc), home electric appliances (refrigerators, television sets, video recorders), air-conditioners, lighting, automobiles, uniform/working cloth, interior (curtains, carpets, blankets, etc), working globes, textile product (tents, sheets, etc), facilities (solar power generation systems, solar heating systems, fuel cells and composing machines for kitchen garbage), public works (building materials, building machines, building methods, sophisticated pavement, rooftop greening), and services (energy saving diagnosis, printing, restaurants, recycling of car tires).

The Green Purchasing Law obliges national governmental bodies to formulate green procurement policies and to follow them. The law also requires the bodies to compile records of their purchasing and disclose this information publicly.

Have such initiatives taken by the government to promote green purchasing/procurement contributed to the objective of the law--to create a sustainable society with less environmental impact by shifting demand?

The Ministry of the Environment selected some of the designated procurement goods to calculate the effects in reduction of environmental impacts as well as the contribution to the creation/expansion of the market for green products.

Here is an example of copy paper. The criteria for copy paper to be "designated procurement good" is (1) 100 percent of material should be used paper and the paper whiteness should be about 70 percent or less, and (2) if coated, the amount of coating material should be less than 12 grams per square meter.

In fiscal 2001, 80,932 tonnes of copy paper were procured by national bodies under the Green Purchasing Law (parliament, courts, ministries and agencies, independent administrative institutions, and specially designated public corporations).

Since 92.6 percent of this amount, or 74,958 tonnes, consisted of products on the list of designated procurement goods, it is clear that national bodies have actively embraced the use of designated goods.

If those 74,958 tonnes of copy paper were made from 100-percent virgin pulp, 207,000 cubic meters of pulpwood would be required as raw material, suggesting that an equivalent of 292,999 trees (based on a diameter of 30 cm and height of 10 meters) were saved that year because of green procurement by national bodies.

In 2000, 11.6 percent of shipments of copy paper in Japan consisted of designated procurement goods. In 2001, the percentage increased to 23.6 percent, more than double the previous year. The breakdown of copy paper sales also indicates an increase of copy paper having a higher percentage of used-paper (such as 100-percent used-paper) and a decrease of copy paper containing a lower percentage of used-paper.

In 2001, 41.7 percent of the 179,860 tonnes of all domestic shipments of designated procurement goods in Japan was procured by national bodies. This indicates that green purchasing/procurement by national bodies has made a significant contribution to the creation or expansion of the market for designated procurement goods.

The Ministry of the Environment in the research calculated reductions, using plastic and standing tree equivalents as comparisons, due to the shift to designated procurement writing materials; reduced electricity consumption and CO2 emissions due to energy-saving copying machines, personal computers and television sets; and reduced NOx and CO2 emissions by shifting to low-emission vehicles. They also estimated the market-creating effects of such green purchasing activities.

The national and local governmental bodies account for 16.7 percent of final consumption expenditures in Japan. Of this, the purchases by local governments are three times those the national government. As green purchasing activities expand and spread to local governments across the country, it is expected that environmental impacts will be reduced further and the market for environmentally-friendly goods will be created and expanded.