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.
The driving ideas behind the development of refill and replacement products was to make refilling containers easier and to reduce plastic use, all while still effectively protecting products and their contents. In many municipalities within Japan, however, used refill packs often end up being incinerated and can only be converted into thermal energy. Unlike PET bottles made from a single type of plastic, refill packs are made of several layers of different plastics. While this protects products (including detergents and shampoos) from environmental factors such as temperature changes, humidity, and UV rays, it also makes them difficult to recycle.
In addition to improving plastic resource circulation, Kao aims to go one step further and create new value through our trademarked RecyCreation initiative. By combining technology, resourcefulness, and ideas to upcycle used refill packs into fresh creations, we will create new value and extend the life cycle of our products.
Launched in 2015, our RecyCreation activities are still in the social experimentation stage; nevertheless, they are being carried out in collaboration with consumers, businesses, and government authorities. Furthermore, we are currently working to expand the scope of our RecyCreation partners.
To help people embrace the RecyCreation concept, we began by collecting used refill packs and turning them into recycled resin, which was then used to create “Okaeri Blocks.” In Japanese, “okaeri” means “welcome back” and is the greeting someone receives when they return home. The name conveys Kao’s desire to give back to society and the local community the good intentions of everyone who helped collect the used packs.
Several local communities—including Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Ishinomaki and Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, and Kitami in Hokkaido—helped collect enough empty detergent, shampoo, and other refill packs to produce these blocks, which are now being used to build ａvariety of things.
Drop-off collection box
Collected refill packs
As of March 2020, Kao employees and local communities have collected around 450,000 used refill packs, which amounts to roughly 8.2 tons. They were recycled into Okaeri Blocks and then given to the communities that collected the packs. The blocks are then turned into library benches or used in community planning workshops.
Bench donated to Kamakura City Central Library
Children building the cities of the future with Okaeri Blocks
To help solve the global problem of plastic waste, Kao aims to share the knowledge it has gained from this RecyCreation proof-of-concept testing worldwide. We are also committed to furthering the development of refill packs made using easier-to-recycle materials and designs, and to the development and use of recyclable plastics.
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