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530week- a community towards a circular economy in Japan

Japan News

Hello CICLO readers! Today, we are featuring a very special event that only happens once every year in Tokyo, Japan. It’s called 530 (gomi zero meaning zero waste in Japanese) Conference hosted by the members of 530week which took place on May 30th, 2019 at SHIBUYA CAST. and TRUNK(HOTEL). This year marked the second year for this event with over 100+ attendees. Many of them came to learn how several companies such as Mercari, Starbucks and TerraCycle Japan are tackling our current environmental problems in several different ways. Continue to read to learn more about this great initiative in Japan meant to spread more sustainability awareness not only to the general public but also to industries and businesses alike.

How did 530week get started?

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530week is an organization that was created by Takako Ohyama and Genki Nakamura. 530week’s main goal is to achieve making Shibuya and the surrounding Tokyo area more sustainable. They established a community of people living in the local area to feel comfortable and give them the power to create a cultural center for the future and from there, 530week was born. Moreover, they also started a campaign called CAT STREET CIRCULAR HACK PROJECT aimed at building cities on a circular model focusing on being local and sustainable. Through this project, they are able to provide innovative and playful ideas meant to tackle environmental issues, ensuring that local citizens can continue to work and live sustainable lifestyles. Participating project members include TRUNK(HOTEL), SHIBUYA CAST., KEEN, BURTON and Journal Standard Furniture. In order to connect more with local businesses, industries and individuals alike, they organized the 530 Conference event since 2018. This year marked 530 Conference’s second year anniversary and each year it continues to grow bigger and bigger.

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CAT Street Circular Hack Project sign on food carts outside at the courtyard of SHIBUYA CAST. On the day of the event, all street food cart vendors sold their food using only non-plastic containers and utensils.

What is the main goal for 530 Conference?

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Risa Arai (left) and Takako Ohyama (right) from 530week.

This year’s conference theme was: “A sustainable future led by industries through business strategy and a circular economy”. 530week believes we should go beyond just “thinking” about creating a sustainable society but truly act on our thoughts instead. This year’s conference brought together companies already acting to create sustainable business values. 530 Conference was able to feature several case studies of industries leading sustainable initiatives in hopes to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. The case studies shown explained both the benefits and challenges of working to create a circular economy. A variety of business strategies were shared which recognized sustainability as being a key part of their mission. 530 Conference emphasized the opportunity to think, discuss and network through workshops and talk sessions with leading sustainable Japanese industries.

What industries were featured in 530 Conference?

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First talk session with Tetsuo Ohkawa from Ohkawa Printing Company (middle) and Rei Fukawa from Starbucks Japan (right) interviewed by Ryota Hirama from 4Nature, Inc.,(left).

The talk session taking place at SHIBUYA CAST. included the following topics:

  • Circular Supply-Chain with Starbucks Japan and Ohkawa Printing Company
  • Recovery and Recycling with Ricoh Industry Company, Good Deal Company and JUST PROJECT from Korea
  • Product Life-Extension with Mercari, FREITAG lab. Japan and Circular Economy Japan
  • Sharing Platform with Anju Ishiyama and TABETE CoCooking
  • Product as a Service with Air Closet
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From left: Mona Neuhauss from No Plastic Japan interviewing Sumika Tabara from Mercari, Yusuke Wakino from FREITAG lab. Japan and Kazuhiko Nakaishi from CIRCULAR ECONOMY JAPAN.

Moreover, two venture talks featuring TerraCycle Japan’s new sustainable grocery delivery project called Loop and a newly established start-up called Aikasa delivering an easy-to-use rental umbrella system via a mini app used through LINE to reduce the amount of umbrella waste in urban cities. Today, I would like to give a small summary about these two new venture companies and their ideas to implement sustainability in Japan.

Loop– collect and refill grocery delivery system eliminating plastic packaging

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Eric Kawabata from TerraCycle Japan introducing Loop.

The first talk was given by Eric Kawabata from TerraCycle Japan introducing their new project, Loop. Loop is a grocery delivery system (similar to the Pal System in Japan), however, they have collaborated with different major companies such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble to use a collect and refill business model that replaces plastic packaging with durable stainless steel or glass packaging. This system began its first customer trials earlier this year in Paris, France. It is now available in certain cities in the US and are continuing to expand to the U.K., Canada, Germany and Japan within this year and in 2020. Loop has no membership or subscription fee, all you pay is a small fully refundable one-time deposit to borrow the refillable packaging. You will receive the products at your doorstep, using an exclusive Loop tote bag with a delivery system that eliminates disposable, single-use shipping materials. You can enjoy your same products with new, innovating and eye-catching designs that allow you to feel good about removing plastic packaging from your day-to-day life. When you are run out of your essentials, all you have to do is schedule a free pick up time and Loop takes back the empty containers. These containers are then carefully rinsed, cleaned and refilled for your next order! We are really excited to see this new grocery shopping system implemented in Japan next year in hopes that it will raise awareness about the overuse of plastic packaging in conventional grocery stores.

Aikasa– easy and affordable umbrella sharing service for a sustainable society

Shoji Marukawa, introducing his umbrella sharing service, Aikasa.

The final venture talk was done by Shoji Marukawa, CEO of Nature Innovation Group, Inc. and creator of Aikasa. Aikasa is an umbrella sharing service which started offering its services in the Shibuya area of Tokyo (currently expanding to other surrounding areas) and in the city of Fukuoka. Their business goal is to allow this umbrella sharing service to make people’s lives easier and more convenient along with creating a sustainable society infrastructure. We all had that time when we weren’t prepared and it starts raining like crazy outside, so we have to end up buying another umbrella again. Well, Aikasa hopes to solve this problem by offering a single rental umbrella for 70 yen per day including tax! It is incredibly accessible and cheap for anyone to simply use Aikasa during those unpredictable weather changes. It’s eco-friendly for the earth and easy on your wallet! You don’t need to download an app, you can access a “mini app” via LINE by adding Aikasa as a friend. You then have access to search available umbrellas through the Aikasa map. Once you find your selected umbrella station, all you have to do is scan the QR code of your umbrella to give you the necessary code to open it and you’re all set to go! Once you are done using it for the day, return it at the nearest umbrella station, read the QR code to end your rental and complete the return. It’s that easy! Aikasa shows that even a simple idea can have a huge environmental impact on our society and we hope that we will continue to see more innovative ventures like TerraCycle Japan and Nature Innovation Group, Inc.

530 Workshops create collaborative and sustainable business models

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Akira Sakano (far right corner) waiting as workshop groups discuss sustainable and innovative solutions for current Japanese businesses and industries.

Lastly, we would like to introduce the other portion of the 530 Conference, the workshops supervised by NPO Zero Waste Academy director, Akira Sakano. She is mostly known as the zero-waste inspiring leader of the small town of Kamikatsu, Tokushima in Shikoku, Japan. She has also co-chaired as one of the young leaders at the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Akira is also a member of the 530week group here in Japan. The 530 Workshops were set up throughout the whole day at their second venue, TRUNK(HOTEL) in Shibuya. There, several tables were set up, each with a case study of current big name Japanese companies such as Suntory Holdings, Kao Co., Ltd. and Ricoh Industry Company.

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530 Conference hosting various participants for workshop discussions held at TRUNK (HOTEL) in Shibuya.

As a participant of the workshop, you were able to select which company you were interested in supporting a new business model with a facilitator set-up at each table. You are able to sit at different company tables every time and gain new insight to what a circular economy-based business model can look like in various types of industries. The workshops were done in hopes to give an opportunity to understand how we can work towards a circular economy and how it could become the new norm within our current industrial standards. This part of the conference was also meant to show the strength of people coming together, sharing ideas and knowledge to create innovative business models. There was also the possibility that these ideas could actually be adopted by these major companies in Japan. As we entered the workshop area ourselves, it was very nice to see a room full of interesting conversations taking place meant to build great business plans working on the values of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Moreover, it was inspiring to see that Akira Sakano’s leadership during the workshops was influencing everyone in the room to do their best to come up with collaborative and fruitful proposals.

CICLO’s final words about 530week’s 2019 Conference

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Overall, the staff of 530week and the success of this year’s 530 Conference was astounding. So many people from across many business fields and backgrounds in Japan came together for a single cause: to create a more sustainable future for Japan. We hope to continue seeing more inspiring events and meet more influential entrepreneurs in Japanese industries. CICLO would like to thank Takako Ohyama and the members of 530week for their support in our project and for allowing us to participate in this year’s 530 Conference. I hope you learned something new today and that you can become more involved in local communities or groups like 530week, who are striving to create sustainable changes in Japan. Thank you for reading and until next time!

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