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Sustainable Materials Management: Materials Management and the 3Rs Initiative

August 29, 2007


The fact sheet summarizes information on the 3Rs Initiative and related policies to foster materials management through the development, use, and disposition of products and services. These policies, through the efficient use of resources and materials, integrate both environmental and economic approaches to achieve sustainable development goals in a sound "material-cycle" society. The fact sheet briefly describes this initiative and Japan's efforts to further sustainable development goals using the 3Rs. It also briefly describes some related international and U.S. resources related to 3Rs materials management concepts. The fact sheet is not comprehensive; rather, it provides a starting point for readers interested in investigating the topic.

Summary of the 3RS Initiative

The three central goals of the 3Rs Initiative are to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The 3Rs Initiative Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer is intended to:

The 3Rs Initiative was introduced by Japan at the 2004 G8 Summit held at Sea Island, Georgia, and endorsed by world leaders at the Summit. Japan formally launched the 3R Initiative in Tokyo at the Ministerial Conference on the 3Rs Initiative Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer held in April 2005. A Senior Officials Meeting Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer on the 3Rs followed in March 2006 so that representatives from around the world could share knowledge of 3Rs activities, communicate future plans, and consider transboundary movement of 3Rs-related goods, materials, and products. In October 2006, Japan hosted an Asia 3R Conference Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer to explore these matters further.

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The 3Rs in Japan

In June 2007, Japan announced its "Becoming a Leading Environmental Nation Strategy in the 21st Century - Japan's Strategy for a Sustainable Society Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer." The document includes proposed domestic and international actions to promote the 3Rs in order to achieve sustainable material cycles. The actions fall into four categories:

Japan's approach to the 3Rs Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer supports its stated vision to achieve a zero-waste society at home and to cooperate in furthering zero-waste goals abroad. It is built on extensive legislation to support recycling goals. For example, Japan has incorporated extended producer responsibility principles into its legislation to manage wastes and has developed green purchasing programs to support recycling goals. The 3Rs in Japan includes an emphasis on appropriate transboundary movement of materials and waste within the region.

The Ministry of Environment Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer in Japan, working with organizations such as the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, conducts policy research, examines regional strategies, undertakes seminars, and takes other actions to promote the 3Rs. In that the 3Rs Initiative influences both environmental and economic policies in Japan to achieve sustainable development goals, the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer and the Institute of Developing Economies-Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO) Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer are partners in promoting the 3Rs.

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Other Initiatives

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Some U.S. Activities and Additional Resources

Particularly in the context of clean energy development and climate change, in a joint statement on April 7, 2007, the U.S. and Japan reaffirmed the goals of the 3Rs Initiative Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer. The press release reflects a U.S. emphasis on both multi-lateral and public-private U.S. domestic partnerships to achieve material management goals. A number of useful EPA Headquarters, EPA Regional, and U.S. federal government web-based resources reflect U.S. government interest in elements of the 3Rs. For example:

Similarly, "cradle-to-cradle" approaches to materials management are promoted on web pages developed by a number of U.S. States. Some examples include:

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