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Japan: PCB Special Measures Act Amended

(July 25, 2016) An amendment to the Act on Special Measures for Promotion of Proper Treatment of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) (PCB Special Measures Act) was promulgated by the Japanese government on May 2, 2016. (Act No. 34 of 2016, OFFICIAL GAZETTE (in Japanese).) PCBs, which are ”man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms,” have been shown “to cause a variety of adverse health effects.” (Learn About Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, (last visited July 25, 2016).) 

The government intends to make sure that the treatment of PCB is done in accordance with the schedule that it had previously established. The amendment obligates owners of waste that contains PCB to take measures to have the PCB properly treated. In addition, prefecture governments now have the authority to collect reports on PCB waste and to carry out on-site inspections. (Notice Regarding Cabinet Decision on Amendment to PCB Special Measures Act (Notice), Ministry of Environment (MOE) website (Mar. 1, 2016) (in Japanese).)

Background on Treatment of PCB

The manufacturing of PCB was banned in 1972. (Id.) Owners of PCB-containing waste must store it following the Standards on Specially Managed Industrial Waste Disposal. The Standards require waste material with PCB to be stored separately, in a manner that prevents leaks, and marked as containing PCB. (Summary of Standards on Specially Managed Industrial Waste Disposal, MOE website (in Japanese) (last visited July 22, 2016).)

For 30 years following the enactment of the ban, there was little progress in establishing facilities that can treat PCB, although some companies established effective methods to treat PCB waste and treated their own PCB waste in the 1990s. (Committee on Evaluating the PCB Waste Disposal Business, Mid-Term Report (Mar. 2003), at 11, MOE website (in Japanese).)

In 2001, the PCB Special Measures Act (Act No. 65 of 2001) was enacted. Based on the Act, the government established five facilities that treat waste with high concentrations of PCB. (PCB Waste Treatment, JESCO (last visited July 22, 2016).) The government planned to process all waste with high concentrations of PCB by 2024, but there is doubt as to whether the process will be completed by that time. (Notice, supra.)

Waste with low concentrations of PCB is treated by waste disposal facilities certified by the Minister of Environment or licensed by prefectural governors under the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Act. The government plans to properly process this waste (i.e., by burning it at a high temperature) through these facilities by 2027. (Toward Completion of Processing PCB Wastes by the Scheduled Time (Apr. 2015), at 1-2, MOE website (in Japanese).)