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Naotomi Shoji leading the way to a greener future

Article - June 29, 2023

Engaged in the recycling of industrial and household waste, as well as the production of biofuels, Naotomi Shoji aims to expand its international operations in China and Southeast Asia.


"Our strategy is to recycle cars and other vehicles in China."

Shigeo Kinoshita, President, Naotomi Shoji Co.

Reduce, reuse, recycle – the so-called ‘Three Rs’ are seen as indispensable when it comes to the full realization of a circular, sustainable global economy that ensures the safety and survival of the planet. But the cold reality is that, on a global level, due to population increase and ever-growing consumer demand, the first ‘R’ (reduce) is arguably unattainable, making the second two ‘R’s (reuse, recycle) ever more important.

Recycling companies across the world are working at a local level to ensure the overarching global aspirations for a circular economy are achieved. And in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, Naotomi Shoji is playing its part as a local leader in the recycling of industrial and household waste, as well as the production of biofuels. The company also has ambitions to expand overseas and already has operations in China, where it forms part of a joint venture with a local partner engaged in the recycling of automobiles.

Naotomi Shoji’s business comprises four pillars: 1) metal recycling; 2) industrial waste treatment and recycling; 3), general waste recycling including waste paper and biodiesel fuel production; and 4) other activities such as building maintenance, demolition and used clothing.

“We see growth potential in pillars 1 to 3,” says President Shigeo Kinoshita. “Particularly pillar 1 (recycling scrap metal) as steel scrap is used more than ever in blast furnaces due to decarbonization measures. We also expect demand for copper and other non-ferrous metals to increase, as well as steel, due to the penetration of electric vehicles and the global improvement in quality of life. And recycling is more earth-friendly than digging up mountains.”

“Alternative fuels can be made from the industrial waste (pillar 2). The need for such alternative fuels is also increasing in Japan. Increasing the recycling rate of industrial waste is also something that is being attempted at our new plant. For Pillar 3 (general domestic waste), we are currently focusing on recycling plastics and waste wood as they have great potential and we will continue to target them."

The company’s new state-of-the-art plant in Nagano, which is earmarked for completion in December, is being built to increase production capacity and will leverage the power of artificial intelligence to increase efficiency, enhance productivity and reduce energy consumption and waste.

“To reduce our environmental impact, we are working on energy-saving activities such as switching 100% of our lighting to LED, and there are many things we are doing, such as solar power generation,” adds Mr. Kinoshita. “We are also converting our fleet from engine vehicles to EVs and hybrid vehicles to reduce fossil fuel consumption.”

Naotomi Shoji also aims to help other businesses and organizations in the local Nagano area to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels by producing biodiesel fuel (BDF) from used tempura oil. “We want to collect tempura oil in Nagano Prefecture and recycle it into BDF that can be used in buses, trucks and heavy machinery. We want to complete this recycling system within Nagano Prefecture. Vehicles running on tempura oil generated at home will go to local kindergartens, primary schools, etc. to collect waste and other materials. It is truly a local-production-for-local-consumption view of recycling. We expect it to be easy for children to understand and familiarize themselves with.”

Such innovation and initiatives, however, should not be limited to the local Nagano area, which is why Naotomi Shoji has set its sights on expanding its presence in China (to grow its aforementioned car recycling business) and the Southeast Asian region. Indeed international expansion will be crucial for the Japanese enterprise to reach its financial goals, as well as social aspirations.

“Our goal for the next six years is to increase the company's profits and sales,” states the president. “We expect to generate approximately 16.5 billion yen this year, so our first step is to achieve sales of at least 20 billion yen. We consider sales to be proof that people appreciate our company, so we will do our best to gain the support of as many people as possible.”

Poverty eradication, meanwhile, is one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and Naotomi is now taking action, both locally and globally, to alleviate poverty, especially among children. “Moving forward,” Mr. Kinoshita adds, “we want to expand and continue our actions and make our results visible.”