Japan Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) System
Dec 11, 2020
Nora Wang
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CONTENTS

Overview of Japan PRTR

In 1996, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) started to encourage the development of Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs), which it defines as “a publicly accessible database or inventory of chemicals or pollutants released to air, water and soil and transferred off-site for treatment”.

In response to the OECD recommendation on this score, the Environment Agency of Japan (now the Ministry of the Environment) started to gear up for the introduction of a PRTR in Japan. Later in July 1999, the Act on Confirmation, etc. of Release Amounts of Specific Chemical Substances in the Environment and Promotion of Improvements to the Management Thereof was promulgated, which established a PRTR system in Japan.

Under the PRTR system, businesses are required to estimate the amount of the subject substances that would be released into the environment (whether soil/water/air) additional to those included in wastes and annually notify the data to the authorities via local governments. The authorities need to makes the results public after compiling the data submitted. See the graph below for the structure of the system.

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(Source: MoE website)

 By enabling risk communication among different actors, the PRTR system enables the government and the public to know information about which chemicals are being released, where, how much and by whom.

Subject Substances

The PRTR system designates Class I substances and Class II substances and impose regulatory obligations respectively. See the table below for details of the subject substances.

Category

Details

Requirements

Class I Designated Chemical Substances

²  462 in total, including:

*Chemical substances that may be   hazardous to human health and/or may adversely affect the ecosystem;

*Chemical substances that may easily form   hazardous chemical substances through a naturally-occurring chemical   transformation; and

*Chemical substances that deplete the   ozone layer

²  PRTR reporting, if the amount handled   annually is1t

²  Requirements concerning SDS and labelling   under the GHS framework.

Class II Designated Chemical Substances

²  100 in total, including:

*Chemical substances that may be hazardous to human   health and/or may adversely affect the ecosystem;

*Chemical substances that may easily form hazardous   chemical substances through naturally-occurring chemical transformation; and

*Chemical substances that deplete the ozone layer.

²  Requirements concerning SDS and labelling   under the GHS framework.

Note: In April 2020, the Japanese MoE opened a public consultation on the adjustment to the lists of substances subject to the PRTR law. The adjustment proposed to increase the number of Class I substances and Class II substances from 462 to 523 and from 100 to 134. Specifically, 260 substances were newly added in the proposed change.

 In particular, 15 substances are selected from Class I substances and designated as Specific Class I Designated Chemical Substances due to their carcinogenic properties. For these substances, the threshold for reporting business operators based on annual amount handled is set to 0.5t.

As shown above, businesses handling Class I substances are required to estimate and report the release and transfer of such substances on a regular basis. If any confidential business information is involved, businesses can choose to report the data to the central authorities directly. Both Class I and II substances are subject to SDS and labelling requirements under the GHS framework.

However, products with low contents of specified chemical substances (<0.1% for Specific Class I designated substances and <1% for others), solid substances, products for general consumer purposes and sealed products, which, due to the handling processes of the individual business operators, are all considered to have low emission levels, are exempt from the PRTR system.

Reporting Responsibilities

Under the PRTR system, any business which meets the following conditions 1 - 3 is subject to reporting requirements:

1.      The business handles 1t or more annually of any chemical substance specified in the list of Class I Designated Chemical Substances (or 0.5t or more of any chemical substance included in the Specific Class I Designated Chemical Substances)

2.      The business employs no less than 21 employees

3.      The business operations fall under any of the 24 business categories specified by the government (metal mining, crude petroleum and natural gas production, manufacturing, etc.)

Notable for the Japanese PRTR, the annual amount handled is the sum of annual amount manufactured and annual amount used.

Moreover, for any business that has a facility which meets any of specific requirements (relevant facilities under the Mine Safety Law, sewage disposal facilities, domestic waste disposal facilities/Industrial waste disposal facilities and specific facilities under the Act on Special Measures against Dioxins), it is subject to reporting obligations even though its annual amount handled does not reach the threshold in Condition 1.

Reporting Information Requirements

Businesses subject to reporting obligations need to submit the following two categories of information:

1.      Amounts released : amounts released to the environment due to business activities

²  Releases to air

²  Releases to public water bodies

²  Releases to the land (on-site)

²  Landfill disposal on site

2.      Amounts transferred: amounts transferred from the operation site to off-site for the treatment of waste generated as a result of business activities

²  Transfers to sewage

²  Transfers to off-site

Disclosure of PRTR Data

The annual data can be obtained from the websites of METI, MOE, or NITE, and all items other than personal information (i.e. information of contact persons) are subject to publication.