Michihiko is working to reduce the world's dependence on limited, non-renewable resources through recycling initiatives that he makes profitable and sustainable by involving consumers and corporations.
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Reducing Petroleum Consumption Through Horizontal Recycling
Every year, the global fashion industry creates approximately 92 million tons of waste, much of which is incinerated or buried in landfills. Petroleum-based polyester accounts for more than 50% of the fibers produced. As a result, the industry significantly impacts the environment by generating CO2 during production and at the disposal stage.
It is a similar story with PET bottles. One million are sold every minute, but it is rare for PET bottles to be recycled. Even if some are converted into apparel, the next destination is often an incinerator or landfill site. In short, this all adds to a continuous vast petroleum consumption.
Setting out to solve these social problems, Michihiko Iwamoto setup JEPLAN—originally named Japan Nihon Kankyo Sekkei Inc.—and developed BRING Technology™, an innovative chemical recycling technology that makes it possible to treat the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) raw material of PET bottles and polyester fibers, break it down at molecular level, remove impurities such as dirt and foreign matter and fabricating it into recycled PET resin. Specifically, it facilitates a horizontal recycling cycle turning PET bottles back into PET bottles, clothes back into clothes, time and again, with the same quality as that made from petroleum. The company’s recycling plant in Kawasaki, just outside Tokyo, is the world’s only proprietary plant recycling PET bottles in this way through chemical recycling technology.
JEPLAN is not just developing recycling technology. They are also working with approximately 160 companies in other industries, including manufacturers and retailers in Japan, to devise initiatives that recycle clothing as a resource. In addition, they have deployed some 3,000 clothing collection sites to encourage consumer participation. For PET bottles, they have laid out a vision of complete recycling (repeatedly reusing PET bottles as PET bottles to circulate resources) in Japan. To this end, they started an inter-company consortium that devises mechanisms for building momentum and joint collections between different industries.
Using Technology to Make the World a Recycling-oriented Society
Many global corporations now recognize a responsibility to manufacture products using recycled materials or resources in accordance with the Paris Agreement and SDGs.. Through technology licensing alliances with domestic and overseas partners, JEPLAN is taking advantage of this to promote the expansion of horizontal recycling worldwide.
Rather than consuming new underground resources, Michihiko believes that modern society must take existing resources and find ways to reuse them. If we can turn the world into a recycling-oriented society, there will be less need to consume energy and precious underground resources such as petroleum through manufacturing processes. In turn, this will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduce garbage. And with a clearer path towards reducing the world’s rapid global warming and reduced conflict over mining resources, the world can be a more peaceful and better place for everyone to live. Both Michihiko and world leaders in recycling technology, JEPLAN, are working towards a peaceful and sustainable society in which every one of us plays our part.
He worked to establish the textile recycling system by collaborating with government, retailers, and trading companies. He then founded JEPLAN with a vision to realize a society where everything will be circulated with economic efficiency. Under his leadership as CEO of JEPLAN, the company has achieved nine consecutive years of profitability. He was appointed as the fifth Japanese Ashoka fellow in 2015.
JEPLAN, Inc is a Japan-based company aiming to foster a sustainable society where everything gets put back in circulation to reduce the dependence on limited, non-renewable resources. It was founded by Ashoka Fellow Michihiko Iwamoto and Masaki Takako, the current CEO. Through consumer-participated recycling programs like its “BRING” initiative, JEPLAN collects unwanted clothing, uniforms, plastic products, and other items from consumers and corporations. Its patented chemical recycling technology then converts the fibers into new products. Only clothing that is no longer wearable is recycled. Creating new clothing from recycled clothes reduces textile scrap while using less petroleum, thus creating a sustainable supply chain. The company is now expanding its initiatives beyond Japan, licensing its technology to more and more countries worldwide.