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About – Concept
Back to a natural cycle
The Zero Emissions concept represents a shift from the traditional industrial model in which wastes are considered the norm to integrated systems in which everything has its issue. It advocates an industrial transformation whereby businesses emulate the sustainable cycles found in nature and where society minimizes the load it imposes on the natural resource base and learns to do more with that the earth produces.
"Human beings once lived in the ecosystem - the natural Zero Emissions system - but withdraw from it as years passed by. Now awakened humankind has realized we must go back to the natural ecosystem, (...) the first thing we have to do is to return nature to its original conditions, (...) then we need to learn from the system of "natural Zero Emissions". Once we learn about all about it, we can apply such a system to establish Zero Emissions in human activities, where ecology and human's welfare are well balanced at some point."
The late Keizo Yamaji, ZEF Chairman (2000-2004,) Former Chairman, Nihon Tetra Pck K.K./Former President Canon Inc.
Reorganization of industries
This concept envisions all industrial inputs being used in final products or converted into value-added inputs for other industries or processes. In this way, industries are reorganized into clusters such that industry's wastes or by-products are fully matched with the input requirements of another industry and the integrated whole produces no waste.
The environmental perspective
The elimination of waste represents the ultimate solution to pollution problems that threaten ecosystems at global, national and local levels. In addition, full use of raw materials, accompanied by a shift towards renewable sources, means that utilization of the earth's resources can be brought back to sustainable levels.
A new standard of efficiency and integration
For businesses Zero Emissions can mean greater competitiveness. It also represents a continuation of its inevitable drive towards efficiency. First came productivity of labor and capital and now comes the productivity of raw materials - producing more from less.

Taking a historical perspective, Zero Emissions represents the next phase in the evolution in the control and reduction of emissions from insustrial pollution sources:

1. End of pipe - use of pollution control technologies to treat process wastes
2. Cleaner Production - redesign of processes and products such that less emissions are produced in the first place
3. Zero Emissions - conversion and use of process outputs as inputs for other processes
Zero Emissions requires a shift in society
It is widely recognized that production and consumption are tightly intertwined activities. Thus, implementation of Zero Emissions requires consideration of the larger societal system within which industrial activities take place. Achieving Zero Emissions at a societal level includes addressing such issues as
  • urban and regional planning
  • consumption patterns
  • energy conservation
  • upstream industrial clustering
  • the reuse and recycling of products and
  • the interactions of these activities with the local industrial production base.
Note on the term "Zero Emissions"
Zero Emissions definded as zero output from a process except for one desired product is not possible according to physical laws. Chemical reactions, for instance, do not reach exactly 100 % yield and waste heat emissions are inevitable. So our concept does not assert that all emissions of a set of industrial processes can reach precisely zero. The meaning of Zero Emissions has two aspects:
  • One is to force a systems perspective: Even if an emission is inevitable from a given process, viewing it in the context of other industrial and natural processes that utilize this waste can possibly lead to effetively "zero" emissions, meaning no measurable impact on the environment.
  • Also, the term refers to a process of continuous improvement towards an idealized goal, an approach that has been successful in management standards such as Zero Defects and Zero Inventory.