An Indigo Industrial Ecology Paper
Creating systems solutions for sustainable development through industrial ecology

Eco-industrial Development in Japan

By Mari Morikawa, industrial ecology grad
uate student at Yale University who served as intern to Indigo Development during the Spring and Summer of 2000

Reference: Morikawa, Mari. 2000. Eco-Industrial Developments in Japan. Indigo Development Working Paper # 11.  Indigo Development Center,


Since the breakdown of the Bubble Economy in Japn, which had prospered on the basis of mass production and mass consumption, Japan has been struggling to find an alternate vision for development. Facing a negative heritage of unsustainable economic activities in recent decades, which caused environmental degradation and resource exhaustion, Japanese industry and society have been forced to go through changes in their mode of production. Recognizing an eco-industrial approach as a way to realize sustainable development, Japanese leaders have launched various types of eco-industrial projects around the country. Since the term “eco-industrial park/estate” is not commonly used in Japan, the exact number of projects are unknown, but one estimate indicates that there are currently about 60 eco-industrial projects operating or under development, including those that are still in the planning and consideration phases.

The following analysis of the driving factors behind the emergence of Japanese eco-industrial projects aims to provide a base of knowledge and insight for better understanding the framework of, and for promoting the future development of, eco-industrial projects. In the second part of this study, we analyze projects that could potentially be defined as eco-industrial parks or that possess many of the qualities typically associated with industrial symbiosis. These projects are grouped into the following categories:

  •  Eco-industrial parks
  •  Eco-Town Projects
  •  Industrial cluster and zero emissions efforts

For each project category, we describe the types of energy and material linkages that are typically present and appeared most attractive to industry. We examine the relationship between the factors that encouraged their development and their organizational structure and also evaluate the degree of success attained.  We seek to provide insights that will support the development of more effective public policy for encouraging future eco-industrial projects.  It should be noted that these categories are aimed at grouping similar types of projects emerging in Japan to characterize them for this study. This typology is not meant to serve for categorization of eco-industrial projects in general.

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