Just 5% of Tohoku disaster debris disposed of

Hosono urges areas outside impact zone to join slow-going cleanup effort


Only 5 percent of the debris generated by the devastating earthquake and tsunami last March has been incinerated or otherwise disposed of, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Tuesday, calling for local government support nationwide to help with the massive cleanup task.

With 22.53 million tons of waste estimated to have been generated in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the Environment Ministry wants local governments outside the three prefectures to accept some of the waste on condition that its radiation level is confirmed safe.

Some local governments have announced their intention to cooperate, but only the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has actually accepted the waste amid lingering radiation fears. The waste does not include debris from Fukushima Prefecture.

“I want to speed up this process because it is a huge barrier to reconstruction efforts,” Hosono said.

He also acknowledged that at the current pace of disposal, completing the task by March 2014 — the ministry’s goal — will be “extremely difficult.”

According to the Environment Ministry, only 1.18 million tons, or 5.2 percent, had been disposed of as of Monday.

Hosono said he wants local governments to cooperate in particular on reducing the amount of wood waste, which is exceeding the capacity of incineration facilities in the disaster-hit areas, even though makeshift facilities have been established.

“Concrete rubble is relatively easy to recycle . . . but wood waste is becoming a major headache due to the difficulty for reuse,” he said.

About 4 million tons will likely need to be accepted by local governments other than those in the disaster-hit prefectures, he added.