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June 27 —Japan will tighten regulations to expedite the safe disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to meet an international deadline less than a decade away, a Ministry of the Environment official told Bloomberg BNA.
The country ceased PCB manufacturing in 1973 and banned their import the following year. The pace of disposal since then, however does not have Japan on pace to eliminate PCBs by 2025 as required under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which it ratified in 2002.
“We've realized that at the current pace of safe disposal, Japan cannot clear the Stockholm Treaty target year,” Yusuke Suzuki, a manager of the Ministry of the Environment's Industrial Waste Division, said June 26.
A Japanese chemical industry official estimated that more than two-thirds of the 54,000 tons of PCBs are both safely stockpiled by users and in use in Japan.
“Achieving the Stockholm target looks almost impossible,” he said, explaining that (JESCO) currently is the sole safe disposal facility for high-level PCB wastes and thus its capacity is limited.
He also pointed to “the recent scientific finding” that low-level PCB wastes that previously were thought not to contain PCBs now have to be targeted for disposal too. Asked about the impact of the tougher regulations, the official said large companies would be little affected while small and medium-size companies are likely to feel steep disposal cost burdens.
As an example of the cost, he said JESCO charges as much as $1,000 to dispose of a small condensor contained in a fluorescent lamp unit.
“If you compare the cost of the disposal of PCB wastes by weight, it costs far more than a car that weighs 1,500 kilograms and sold for $50,000,” he said.
Public comment can be submitted on the regulations through June 29.
By Toshio Aritake
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Information is available, in Japanese, at http://www.jesconet.co.jp/index.html .
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