The 'RecyCreation' initiative

Pursuit of more sustainable raw materials and improved recycling

Kao has taken a 4R-focused approach (reduce, replace, reuse, and recycle) in order to develop product packaging and containers with a low environmental impact. Starting with the introduction of refill and replacement products in the 1990s, our commitment has led to a society in which environmentally-conscious products have become a part of daily life within Japan.

Improving plastic resource circulation through RecyCreation

Refillable packaging has continued to be innovated and developed, with the aim of successfully protecting the contents while making them easy to use, and reducing the amount of plastic used.
However, once used, this packaging is incinerated in many Japanese municipalities, therefore only being used as fuel.
This is because refillable product packaging is made of many layers of fused plastic, in order to protect the various contents from risks such as damage in transport, or risks in the storage environment such as ultraviolet rays. It is recognized as an issue that therefore, it cannot be easily recycled like PET bottles which are made from one type of plastic.

The "RecyCreation" initiative was launched with the aim of improving circularity in plastic, a precious resource, and create new value from discarded plastic.
The word "RecyCreation", combining "recycle" and "creation", is a new word invented by Kao. It embodies the hope that we can find new value in used refillable packaging through technology and innovation.

RecyCreation was launched in 2015. As of April 2022, the total amount of used refill packs collected to date totals 1.07 million, or 19.3 tons. Although still in the social experiment stage, the project is being carried out in cooperation with consumers, other companies, and government agencies, and we are working to expand the number of partners.

Collaborating with various local governments and NPOs in field trials

RecyCreation collects in five areas: Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture; Kamikatsu Town, Tokushima Prefecture; Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture; Ishinomaki City; and Kitami City, Hokkaido.
The first thing we did was to make recycled resin from the collected refill packaging, and from this create a block that we named "Okaeri Block" ("okaeri" means "welcome back" in Japanese). This is a system that allows communities to experience resource circularity by returning "Okaeri Blocks" to their regions. There are endless ways to use them. They are used in urban development, environmental education, and to raise awareness.

Activities in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture

Kamakura City has been implementing "RecyCreation" since 2016. Working with Girl Scouts Kanagawa Troop 3, we held a workshop with the theme "Let's Think About Future Kamakura", using blocks made of collected refill packaging.
In 2017, in addition to Kamakura city, we started a new project with Kamakura-based partners such as NPO's Kamakon and Yufu and Kayak Co. With the cooperation of residents, schools, local governments, and partner corporations, 41,025 packs were collected between October 2017 and May 2018 , to create a life-size Enoden (iconic train) and a bench featuring "Ochibisan", a character from Kamakura.

Today, the blocks used to create Enoden have been transformed into useful items that are used in new locations such as elementary and junior high schools, and stations.
This led to environmental education at elementary and junior high schools in Kamakura, and things continue to be created using the Okaeri Blocks.

The Okaeri Block bench donated to Enoshima station

In October 2018, we launched RecyCreation in Kitami City, Hokkaido, which is famous for curling. This project is carried out with the Kitami Eco-School SDGs Council, a community group for which the Kitami City Environmental Division serves as the secretariat.

We expanded our collection activities with the goal of creating a giant curling stone monument with Okaeri Blocks to raise awareness of recycling and support the curling competition in a creation unique to Kitami. The number of refill packs reached its target in 2021, and the "100x Stone," as it is commonly known, was completed in October 2021. After being on display at the Curling Hall in Kitami City until March 2022, it was moved to the Clean Life Center in Kitami City.

The Kitami RecyCreation project features collaboration between industry, government, academia, and the private sector. With the aim of becoming a model for resource circularity in mid-size cities, activities are still expanding.

Kitami Eco School SDGs Council members checking collected items

Activities in Onagawa Town and Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture

In April 2017, Onagawa Town adopted the "RecyCreation" project as one of the town's new initiatives to combine the revitalization of the town's shopping district with resource circularity, and is now testing its effectiveness when implemented in society. Collection boxes are set up at the Onagawa Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Onagawa Town Tourist Association, and used refill packs are returned to the local currency (ATOM currency) according to the amount collected. We will continue to contribute to the revitalization of Onagawa through these activities.

Ishinomaki City has begun examining the effectiveness of "RecyCreation" implemented in societies as a new joint initiative with residents. The primary project in Ishinomaki is led by Sustainable Design Kobo, an association that aims to propose new environmentally conscious lifestyles that are possible unique to Ishinomaki and its experience of natural disatster. With the cooperation of Ishinomaki City, we began collecting used refill packs of detergent, shampoo, and other products in November 2017 by installing collection boxes at five locations including city hall. Today, the community has expanded through study groups, radio broadcasts, and environmental education, and many people have endorsed this initiative.
As a result, there are now over 50 collection sites throughout the city.

Children making a relief of Onagawa Town's official character

Workshop in Ishinomaki using the Okaeri Blocks

Kamikatsu-cho, Tokushima Prefecture, has been collecting used refill packs since 2016. We recycled and processed 350 kg of the total packs collected in three years in Kamikatsu Town, created "Okaeri Blocks", and held a transfer ceremony of the blocks at Kamikatsu Elementary School on January 26th.
In 2003, Kamikatsu Town became the first town in Japan to announce its "Zero-Waste Declaration". The town's efforts to thoroughly separate and collect waste have garnered worldwide attention.

Strongly identifying with the thoughts behind Kamikatsu-cho's policies, Kao proposed a "RecyCreation" collaboration in 2016, and continues to work with the town.
Refill packs are collected with the cooperation of local residents and partner companies. We have installed a collection box at one of the town's garbage stations which all residents use, and continue to separate and collect waste.

Collection boxes installed at garbage stations

Ceremony held in Kamikatsu

Partnering with corporations in promoting field trials

In October 2020, in cooperation with Lion, we started collecting used refill packs at Ito-Yokado's Hikifune branch in Sumida-ku, Tokyo. During the first year of collection, we were able to collect approximately 9,500 used refill packs, and we have confirmed that many are willing to wash and dry the containers prior to disposing of them.
Since October 2021, collection boxes have been installed at a total of 28 locations, including the headquarters and 20 stores of Welcia Pharmacy in Tokyo and 7 stores in Saitama Prefecture. In collaboration with HAMAKYOREX, a logistics company, we are taking on the challenge of building an efficient collection system that utilizes return trips for product deliveries.

By promoting the concept of "RecyCreation" that takes used products and recycles them to add value, we aim to gain the understanding and cooperation of consumers for recycling, study more effective refill pack collection systems, improve and develop recycling technologies, and build a supply chain. By doing so, we aim to realize a circular society.

Kao and Lion Begin Collaboration on Recycling Field Testing
- To improve the rate of recycling and achieve horizontal recycling

We installed a dedicated collection box at Ito-Yokado Hikifune store in Sumida-ku, Tokyo. We collect used refill packs of detergent, shampoo, and other products from our customers, by calling for their cooperation.

Kao and Lion, with Welcia Yakkyoku and HAMAKYOREX Begin Field Testing for Recycling of Used Refill Film Packaging
Examining logistics processes with increased efficiency and decreased environmental impact

Collection boxes set up in Welcia Yakkyoku

We aim to build an effective collection system by raising consumers' awareness of recycling and obtaining their cooperation in collecting refill packs at several Welcia Yakkyoku which have strong ties with local communities, and by verifying the economic efficiency and environmental impact of collecting and transporting the collected refill packs. We will consider further expansion by applying the model established through this initiative, to other regions, with the aim of realizing a plastic circularity in society.

Toward Horizontal Recycling

Kao's efforts to contribute to solving global plastic issues also include designing packaging that is easier to recycle, researching recycling technologies, and developing packaging made from recycled plastics. Refill packaging, which uses significantly less plastic than traditional packaging, is made from multiple layers of composite materials to protect various contents from risks such as damage in transport or risks in the storage environment such as ultraviolet rays. Therefore, when recycled it becomes a non-uniform plastic made of various elements, making it difficult to recycle back into refill packaging. Until now, such non-uniform plastics have been recycled into pallets used when transporting goods using forklifts, and into fake wood.
In order to use these refill packs, which are difficult to recycle at such a high level, as raw materials, we have been researching recycling technologies at a pilot plant for film packaging recycling, which was introduced at the Wakayama Research site in June 2021. We are conducting research to realize "horizontal recycling", in which refill packs are recycled back into refill packs.

Image of film cross section

Completion of horizontal recycling research plant at Wakayama site

In 2021, we launched an experimental plant. The ultimate goal is to realize horizontal recycling – making packaging from packaging. We will continue to pursue the realization of a sustainable circular society.

Kao Announces Its Participation in "Kobe Plastic Next: Joining Forces to Recycle Refill Packs, a Project Aimed at Horizonal Recycling of Refill Packs"

We are involved in a project in which 19 corporations work together to realize resource circularity. Through collaboration with the return journey of deliveries for retail stores and recyclers, we are carrying out collection efficiently while minimizing environmental impact. Also, in addition to upcycling collected refill packaging into items useful in daily life, we are aiming to realize horizontal recycling in which they are recycled back into refill packaging.

Page Top