Achieving a Sound Material-Cycle Society

Kitakyusyu Eco-Town Center,
Published: 21 October 2020
Last edited: 11 November 2022
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Kitakyushu City's growth was based historically on development of heavy industry, such as iron and steel. Successfully addressing serious environmental pollution caused during the period of industrial growth, the city has been recognized internationally as an eco-friendly city. Having experienced the decline of heavy industry, the city promoted an “environmental recycling industry” as one of the next-generation industries. Meanwhile, waste volumes were increasing all over Japan due to mass production and waste. In order to address such waste-related issues, the city developed the Kitakyushu Eco-Town Plan, which was approved by the national government in 1997 as the first case of “Eco-Town Project”. The project generated positive impacts on economy, society and environment in Kitakyushu City.


East Asia
Scale of implementation
Area-wide development
Buildings and facilities
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Renewable energies
Waste management
Wastewater treatment
Water provision and management
Other theme
Waste management
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
City management, governance and finance
Sustainable urban infrastructure and services
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources


Kitakyūshū, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan


While Kitakyushu City's heavy industries initially brought economic prosperity, they also caused serious environmental problems. Citizens, especially the mothers of small children, stood up and tackled this issue through engagement with both the public and private sectors. Their collective approach resulted in improving their environment significantly while simultaneously achieving economic growth. The city faced another challenge around the 1980s, following the decline of heavy industry due to the economic depression and intense competition on the international market. Companies of conventional industries in the region suffered deteriorating competitiveness, and so they needed to transform their business to a complex industrial structure.


  • Residents of Kitakyushu City
  • Private companies in Kitakyushu City

How do the building blocks interact?

The availability of a strong base of local firms and infrastructure, pressing need for the local economy to change the nature of its core industry, historical and continuous efforts by the community for public education and risk communication, were all aligned in a timely manner in a way that various stakeholders came together (albeit with different motives) to pursue a common goal.


Economic Impact: According to a 2015 document, the total investment for the Eco-Town Project amounted to approximately JPY 66 billion and the project has 1,400 employees. The cumulative number of visitors between 1998 and 2012 is approximately 1 million. In addition, the special tax “environmental future tax” was introduced in 2001, and generated JPY 5.2 billion in 2004.


Social Impact: By 2015, approximately one million people had visited Eco-Town. In 2012 alone, approximately 4,000 people from overseas visited the town. Educational and promotional activities make a difference in the long-term, because residents gain higher environmental awareness. They then tend to make more of an effort to reduce garbage and lessen their environmental burden as well as to influence behavior. It is also interesting to observe that Kitakyushu took advantage of having an Eco-Town to promote the city’s recognition both internationally and domestically, resulting in residents having a favorable outlook towards the local government.


Environmental Impact: Due to the Eco-Town Project, the city succeeded in reducing landfill waste from 31.5% in 1996 down to just 10.5% in 2001 while increasing the recycling rate from 40% in 1991 to 61.7% in 2001. The Eco-Town Project also contributed to a reduction of 380 thousand tons of CO2 per year.


Kitakyushu Eco-Town Project:

The Kitakyushu Eco-Town Project has been carried out in the Hibikinada Area of Kitakyushu City since 1997. It aims to promote “zero emissions” through re-utilizing waste as the raw material for other industries, thereby fostering a resource recycling society. Kitakyushu City formulated several comprehensive strategies for basic research technology development, testing and industrialization to achieve these objectives and promote the creation and industrialization of environmental industries. Basic research and education are conducted in the Kitakyushu Science and Research Park (KSRP), which hosts various research institutions from in and outside of Japan. Practical research is conducted in the experimental study area (6.5 ha), where both research institutions and private companies are clustered. They implement experimental studies, particularly on technologies related to final disposal sites, recycling, and detoxification of toxic substances. In the Hibikinada area, Kitakyushu City constructed the Comprehensive Environmental Complex. This complex hosts facilities for recycling materials and energy. Eight projects are in operation in the area, and the whole 20ha area has been filled since 2005. In addition to materials and energy recycling businesses, the city has invited automobile recycling facilities and SME recycling companies to the Hibikinada Area. Multiple treatment facilities were also constructed to treat residues discharged from Eco-Town and other areas, meaning there is no waste generated from the area. These treatment facilities also provide heat, and wind power generation has also been in operation in the Hibikinada area since 2003. Eco-Town Project is subsidized by two types of funds: the so-called “eco-town soft” subsidy, which subsidizes up to 50% of the costs of feasibility studies, exhibitions, and information provisions to residents and companies; and the so-called “eco-town hard” subsidy, which subsidizes up to 33%–50% of the construction and management costs of the recycling facilities. Kitakyushu City also tries to secure a sustainable budget for implementing environment-related policies including this Eco-Town Project with a tax called the “environmental future tax”. This is a special, local-purpose tax imposed on landfill of industrial waste. Since the tax is not imposed on intermediate treatments, it is also expected to promote recycling activities of companies and reduce any waste generated from them.

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TDLC / DRM Hub Japan World Bank