OSAKA — An advanced underground waste disposal and collection system developed for Rinku Town, the coastal business center adjacent to the offshore Kansai International Airport, is facing closure less than five years after it first came into operation, it was learned Friday.

After spending 5.8 billion yen to build the computer-operated system, taxpayers in Osaka Prefecture now face the prospect of another 1 billion yen bill to pay off the real estate developers who invested their own money to accommodate the system.

The Bureau of Public Enterprise plans to present a 1 billion yen funding request to the prefectural assembly this month as compensation for companies that invested in the waste disposal system, Osaka Prefectural Government sources said.

The prefectural government, which built the system to showcase how a city in the 21st century would dispose of its waste, has decided there is simply not enough garbage to keep the high-tech system in operation.

Now the entire garbage retrieval system looks like it will go down the drain.

The Rinku Town underground garbage collection system, which started operating in September 1996, features 5.4 km of underground pipes that link buildings in the area. Air pressure is used to shuttle the trash to a garbage processing center.

However, what prefectural officials and designers of the system failed to anticipate was the low volume of waste resulting from halted construction in Rinku Town after the burst of the bubble economy.

The effects of recycling and the fact that less waste is now generated by society overall are being used to explain the discrepancy between the estimated and actual volume of trash.

Built to process 30 tons of waste a day, the system is only handling about 1.5 tons from five buildings.

With operating costs running up to 60 million yen a year and only 10 million yen in revenue being made from garbage processing fees from the five buildings using the system, the prefecture has been forced to cover an operating deficit of more than 200 million yen.

Osaka has already served notice to the users of its intention to shut down the system. Once the high-tech system closes, the prefecture will go back to the traditional system of collecting trash by garbage trucks and sending it to designated dumps.

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