Waste in Asia 2016 Conference
Opening & Keynote Address : How and Why Waste Matters in Asia: An Economic Point of View
Masanobu Ishikawa, Kobe University


Professor Ishikawa is a professor of environmental economics at the Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University, and sits as an expert on recycling on a number of councils and committees including the MOE, MAFF and METI. He has served as the president of the Society of Packaging Science and Technology, Japan (2004-2008) and as a council member of the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association since its foundation in 1996. He was awarded the Best Paper Award in 1997 and the Society Award in 2002 from the Society of Packaging Science and Technology Japan.
In 2006, he established an NPO, Gomi-jp, which aims to reduce waste through social re-design. Gomi-jp was awarded the Good Design Award in 2007, the Prime Minister’s Prize at the 3Rs Promotion Merit Awards in 2014 and the Golden Prize of the Minister of the Environment in the 2015 Low Carbon Cup.


Waste matters everywhere in the world, but especially in Asia. World cities generate 1.3 billion tons of solid waste (MSW), and this figure is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tons by 2025 (World Bank 2012). Because of this rapid increase in MSW, waste management costs will increase from $205.4 billion in 2012 to $373.5 billion by 2025 (World Bank 2012). MSW generation in Asia comprises 38% of global waste generation, a share that will increase to 50% by 2025.

Asia is characterized by a wide variety of climates, cultures, histories, economic developments, and types of governance. All these factors have an impact on waste generation and influence the management of the MSW generated.

In my opening address I will review the wide variety of Asian waste problems from an economic perspective by focusing on a household waste recycling project in Nanjing, China. This location was chosen because of the significance of China both in Asia and in the world in terms of MSW (China’s share of waste generation in Asia is 38% today and will increase to 50% by 2025). In addition, the waste management problems in China reflect most of the problems which Asian countries are facing or will face in the near future.

To solve its waste and resource problems, the Chinese government laid out its goal of establishing a ‘Circular Economy’ in its eleventh 5-year plan (2006–2010). However the recycling of urban waste, in particular, is very behind schedule.

One of the difficulties in China is the non-cooperative behaviour of residents with regard to source separation. In Nanjing, a new approach was introduced in May 2014 which encourages people to separate kitchen waste and recyclables via means of economic incentives. We are monitoring this new approach by conducting quantitative and qualitative surveys. Our results have so far revealed, among other factors, that the dissemination of ideas about waste collection requires time, and that physical parameters affect household decisions regarding the separation of waste.

Professor Masanobu Ishikawa will be a keynote speaker on the Waste in Asia 2016 Conference, Leiden University.