WASHINGTON - A new amendment to a Japanese solid waste law that gives municipalities recycling method options has led a U.S. firm to market recycling machines in that country. Environmental Products Corp. of Fairfax, Va., announced Feb. 13 it will work with Fuji Electric Co. Ltd. of Tokyo and its U.S. marketing group, Nissho Iwai Corp. in Los Angeles, to sell American-made ``reverse vending'' ma-chines in Japan.
Charles Rigby, Envipco executive vice president, said initially only glass and aluminum containers will be collected. The ma-chines are priced at $10,000-$12,000 each, and are sold mostly in American states with bottle-deposit laws.
Envipco has manufactured about 6,000 machines since 1983. Also known as ``automatic recycling centers,'' the machines can sort and shred - or reject - metals and plastics. Some machines also can dispense bottle-deposit refunds.
The 1995 Japanese legislative amendment, built on shifting recycling collection duties away from government and onto citizens, provides corporate tax cuts, accelerated depreciation, grants and low-interest loans to companies installing recycling equipment. Cities will manage the collection process.
Plastics interests were able to build into the measure a two-year compliance period that will allow time to educate the public about plastics recycling.
``We don't know what the market potential is out there,'' Rigby said. ``The game plan is we have several sets of equipment out there, which will be used as demonstration equipment. The idea is that [Fuji Electric and Nissho Iwai] will sell it in the municipalities.
"We hope the [reverse vending] idea will catch on,'' he said.
Rigby declined to name the several large companies he said approached Envipco with plans to sell the machines in Japan, saying only, ``We think Fuji has thought it out the best, and their proposal will work.''
He added, ``Within a short while they're going to have to include plastics. I suspect it will be sooner than later, because there's more and more use of plastics in Japan.''
``We're the OEM supplier. Initially, we will be building machines and shipping them to Japan,'' then receiving licensing fees from Fuji when it begins building machines in Japan, he said.
Rigby said Fuji Electric manufactures an electronic control unit to link the vending machines that company also makes ``and several of our reverse vending machines.
``This control unit is somewhat like an ATM [automatic teller machine]. People from a municipality have a card that identifies them as living in the area and qualified to redeem bottles at that location.
"One of the things it will prevent is redemption of a bottle bought in another municipality,'' he said.