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The best thing in Japan: Ishizaka Recycling Factory


The  Ishizaka Recycling Factory is insane. It’s an hour and a half outside Tokyo. The founder (Yoshio Ishizaka) was a guy who ran a recycling business. When they stopped letting people dump everything into Tokyo Bay, people had to then sort the materials for the landfill; steel, wood, cement all separated and recycled. He was in an agricultural area and the neighbors hated the business he was in so much they would stone him. It was dirty, noisy, stinky, ugly. He said, ‘I’m going to do something the neighbors will be proud of’. So he built the world’s most advanced, most beautiful big building where everything comes in. His daughter (Noriko Ishizaka) took over operations now. The big diggers and grabbing machines are all electric run, so no diesel in there pumping out smoke. There are sprayers everywhere to keep the dust down; they use rainwater to spray. The materials are sorted right down to insanity. There is a huge conveyer belt and the materials go round and round. You’ve never seen anything like these Japanese workers sorting materials. It goes round and round until it’s empty. All the wood is taken out and made into different levels of wood fibers for different jobs. The founder said the plumbing and metal department, where they take and sort brass and copper, make them around 2 million dollars a year. The people who have to drop off the stuff have to pay. They pay a charge to take it there and there are huge lines for trucks. They have metallic recovery with big magnets. Around 3% of what’s leftover goes to the landfill. They are now restoring the woods around the factory. They gave me a whole box of local products produced in local farms and have also built a wonderful new community space.


John and Carina at the factory

The first thing she did was ditch the environmentally friendly incinerator that cost the firm ¥1.5 billion and focus on recycling. Within a year, she had acquired the municipal government’s approval to rebuild Ishizaka Sangyo into a closed-loop recycling facility that wouldn’t churn out pollutants.

Ishizaka has since invested some ¥4 billion in machinery and technology designed to break down refuse into small pieces that can be ground down and recycled without the use of water or incineration. The resulting products are then used in a variety of ways, including as soil or construction material.

Aiming to become a pioneer in the industry, Ishizaka Sangyo adopted three integrated waste management systems qualified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to improve resource efficiency, cut costs and reduce waste.

“It used to be dirty and had a bad reputation,” Ishizaka said of the company, which had a shed and incinerators with high chimneys towering over the premises.

“I did my best to change it into something my kids could be proud of,” the mother of two said.

– Noriko Ishizaka, CEO from an interview with the Japan Times

Adapted from the factory’s website:

Ishizaka Sangyo Kabushiki CO.,LTD has over 120 employees.  The 46-year-old company boasts top-class manufacturing technology among industrial waste disposal businesses. The company’s strength lies in its “segregate and classify” technology, which enables recycling of up to 97% of construction waste. We are particularly famous for being a Japanese pioneer in recycling soils by selecting soils from soil-type construction waste, granulating and solidifying them, and distributing them as construction materials.


We also established a business model in which construction waste from demolished or renovated old buildings are recycled as construction materials for the roadbed used in the social infrastructure constructions.


The company founder, Yoshio Ishizaka, was once a young owner of an industrial waste collection and transport business, driving dump trucks on his own. The final destination of his dump truck was always Yumenoshima – now re-identified as Tokyo’s new urban center. Watching pile after piles of garbage, he started thinking about their reuse.


At that time, construction waste from building demolition sites was generally crushed, if they were big, then screened and hand-selected to be sorted out. The powder-like waste flew everywhere and accumulated, doomed to be disposed at the landfill due to the lack of screening technology.


Ishizaka, once a farmhouse boy who used to help sort rice and wheat by separating heavy grains, light grains, hulls and dust using a traditional farm tool called toumi, drew inspiration from this childhood experience and and developed a segregating and classifying device to recycle resources from powder-like wastes.

After many years of trial and error, as well as technical improvement, research and development, he finally achieved recycling 97% of today’s industrial waste.

The second company president is the founder’s daughter, Ms. Ishizaka, who stands out with her unique and innovative management style prioritizing the community-based business, or “economy of scope”, as opposed to “economy of scale”.


“Big companies plant trees outside Japan to reduce CO2 emission. I believe it is our mission to plant a tree in own our community and look after its growth.” In her opinion, the company’s social responsibility lies in the local production for local consumption.

By establishing a unique management system integrating five international standards (ISO9001, 14001, and 50001, ISMS27001, and OHSAS18001), the company has been dramatically expanding its business through efficient and transparent management. This year, it was designated as the “Model Business in Strengthening Competitiveness as a Group” by the Ministry of Economy. Following its acquisition of ISO22301 on “business continuity”, the company is now challenging for the establishment of nation’s first management system integrating six standards.


Furthermore, as a measure to prevent global warming, the company has been vigorously introducing various innovative energy-saving technologies. It replaced eight fuel-type heavy machines (200t class hydraulic shovels, etc.) with electric ones to achieve significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The factory also accommodates many other advanced energy-saving features, such as thermal barrier coatings and vegetated roof (for the reduction of air conditioning consumption), roof lighting (for the reduction of lighting consumption), solar panels (use of regenerated energy), etc.