Japan Is Willing To Take Southeast Asia’s Trash

Japan has a plan for the region’s waste, which involves producing power from trash.
Images via Pixabay

When it comes to tidiness, Japan does it better than everyone else. During the 2018 World Cup, fans of the Japanese national team earned worldwide adoration after they cleaned up their side of the arena before leaving. Marie Kondo, an organizing consultant and author known for her philosophy of keeping things that only “spark joy,” created waves online shortly after her Netflix series debuted earlier this year.


This year, Japan has an even loftier cleanup goal: tidying up Southeast Asia. Japan’s Environment Ministry has set aside $18.49 million in its fiscal 2019 budget to support programs that will help neighboring countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines get rid of its trash, according to a report by Nikkei Asian Review.

How exactly? Through its expertise in waste-to-energy plants. Japan has been producing power from its trash since the 1960s. It currently has 380 operational trash-incinerating power plants, according to the ministry.

While the high costs of creating and operating these plants have prevented the spread of this technology to other countries, a series of partnerships to boost their export will help Japan road test the project in 10 communities in Southeast Asia by 2023.

The announcement will be publicized at the G20 summit in Osaka at the end of June, according to Quartz. One of the main themes of the summit is “environment and energy,” with a focus on creating frameworks to combat rising environmental concerns such as ocean waste, an issue that plagues the coasts of many Asian countries.

Waste-elimination is a growing market which Japan hopes to edge China out of in Asia. While China heavily markets its waste-incinerating technology, Japan aims to get bids by offering combination packages that include other services like recycling, personnel training, and waste disposal systems. It’s also part of a strategy to deepen relationships with its Southeast Asian neighbors through public-private partnerships. The International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, expects the global market for these plants to jump to $80 billion in the next three years from $7.4 billion in 2013.

The move comes at an opportune time. Last May, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs recalled its envoys to Canada following a longstanding dispute over more than a dozen containers of trash shipped by a Canadian company to the Philippines between 2013 to 2014. Earlier this month, Indonesia shipped back five containers of garbage to a Canadian-owned shipping company based in Seattle.

Waste management is literally a dirty business. But that may soon change with guidance from the world’s tidiest country.