A transport company in Fukuoka Prefecture has sold to an exporter thousands of used home electrical appliances that were meant to be recycled, a possible violation of the Home Appliance Recycling Law, according to two unnamed retailers.
Some of the appliances may have been exported to North Korea, according to sources close to the case. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is planning an investigation.
The name of the transport company, which is based in the city of Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, is being withheld pending the investigation.
Bic Camera Co. and Yodobashi Camera Co. said they commissioned the transport firm to collect used electrical appliances and transport them to the appliances' makers for recycling under the terms of the Home Appliance Recycling Law.
Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera said they kept the recycling fees paid by the former owners of the appliances.
METI Vice Minister Seiji Murata indicated during a regular news conference that the two retailers might be reprimanded.
The retailers said they have canceled their contracts with the transport company and have begun repaying some of the fees.
Under the recycling law, which went into force in August 2001, retailers that accept used appliances and place recycling coupons on them receive part of the recycling cost from the former owners—ranging from 2,500 yen (approx. U.S. $23.71) to 5,000 yen (approx. U.S. $47.41) per appliance.
The law states that television sets, air-conditioners, refrigerators, and washing machines must be recycled.
The retailers then pass the used appliances on to the manufacturers for recycling, along with the recycling fees, to which the retailers also contribute. The law requires transport companies to carry the used appliances they collect from retailers to the manufacturers of the goods.
An Environment Ministry official called the transport company's actions a "breach of consumer trust," saying the ministry will look into the incident.
In December 2003, 1,069 collected electrical appliances were found at a facility the exporter had rented in Fukuoka Prefecture. The recycling coupons had been removed from the appliances.
Retail outlets later found that 1,268 appliances collected on behalf of Bic Camera and 1,311 on behalf of Yodobashi Camera had not been recycled. (The Japan Times)
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