Scope#09 | Koa Kogyo

With sacred Mt. Fuji in the north and Suruga Bay in the south, Fuji City in Shizuoka Prefecture is blessed with beautiful scenery and a warm climate. It is the center of Japan’s paper industry where companies utilizing Mt. Fuji’s abundant underground water converge.

Established in this region, Koa Kogyo is a paper manufacturer with over 70 years of history, and Marubeni’s core company in the Forest Products Division. The company’s main business is recycling corrugated board, newspaper, and magazines into containerboard that is widely used to pack everything from food and home electronics to home delivery parcels.

“Always capture the needs of the times, and create paper products and services that support people’s lives and Japan’s economic activities,” is how President Yasuyuki Amakusa describes the company’s mission.

Koa Kogyo annually produces 500,000 tons of containerboard, which is the second largest output in Japan for a single factory. The company makes corrugating medium and linerboard, the two types of base paper needed to make corrugated board, and delivers them to corrugated board manufacturers. One advantage of the company’s location in Fuji City, is being midway between the metropolitan area and the Chukyo area where recovered paper is generated and corrugated board is consumed, both in massive amounts. However, being at the foot of Mt. Fuji, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, means the company must bear a greater responsibility in environmental protection than in other areas. In such circumstances, Koa Kogyo fully complies with all environmental regulations, such as factory disposal and CO2 emission, and continues a stable operation as an environmentally friendly, resource-circulating company. On midsummer nights, dim flashes of light hover over the waterways north of Koa Kogyo’s vast 187,000 ㎡ premises. The place is a natural habitat of fireflies. After disappearing for some time, they have made a comeback thanks to the efforts of Koa Kogyo employees over the years, cleaning the nearby waterways and improving the environment. The place is now a popular firefly-spotting site, offering delight for the residents in the neighborhood.

The production of containerboard itself is actually a paper recycling business that is also a global environment protection activity.

Japan, which is one of the largest consumers of paper in the world, has the highest recovery rate of paper in the world. However, in recent years, the deteriorating quality of recovered paper is notable, due to increased recovered paper exports to China and other countries, and contaminants in the paper. Koa Kogyo was among one of the first to introduce a system for removing contaminants such as metal and resin. The collected metal is used as an ironmaking material, and the resin is burned in an incinerator and the steam is recovered for co-generation, to make the most of resources.

A large amount of water is used not only for paper production, but also for processing recovered paper. Although Japan has abundant fresh water resources, effective use of water is essential for sustainable coexistence with the local environment and community. Koa Kogyo promotes the reduction of environmental burden by saving water through reuse of treated waste water. Additionally, the water discharged outside of the mill is purified to the same level as the water flowing in the nearby rivers. “Pursuing zero emissions is our mission, our commitment to the local community,” says Director Yukiharu Nagasawa.

For the paper manufacturing industry, another large factor of environmental burden is the heat supply used for drying the base paper and the electric power used in the mill. In September 2015, Koa Kogyo replaced its old heavy oil-fired boiler with the latest coal-fired boiler. By increasing the heat efficiency and reinforcing the in-house power generation capacity, the company was able to reduce the total CO2 emission.

In an urban area like Fuji City, there are difficulties with using coal because of problems such as coal dust scattering from the stock yard. Koa Kogyo eliminated such concerns by completely sealing the stock yard facilities, and having just the right amount of coal delivered on a carefully managed schedule. In fact, it is so clean around the mill that you would not realize that coal is being used. As a mill in the residential area, another notable feature is the heartwarming pictures on the walls painted by the nearby junior high school students—a good example of mutual coexistence of the mill and the local community.

The vast warehouse of the mill is also characteristic of Koa Kogyo. To promptly meet the needs of the clients, containerboards in various sizes and qualities are stocked, and 10-ton trucks go in and out at an average rate of 200 vehicles a day.

What seems like an ordinary shipping process actually has hidden considerations for the environment. Each base paper roll weighs several hundred kilograms, and the dozen or so forklifts that carry them from the warehouse to the trucks have all been remodeled to be powered by LPG. This is because the exhaust gas from gasoline or diesel fuel would accumulate in the warehouse, and may affect the health of the workers and the environment of the nearby residents.

Koa Kogyo also deals with a special kind of business—processing of confidential documents from companies and government agencies. Unlike ordinary recovered paper, the delivery entrance and the buildings for confidential documents are strictly managed. Sealed corrugated cartons containing the documents are wholly dissolved without breaking the seal. The high level of security provides reassurance to the clients. As confidentiality of documents including personal data becomes ever more important, the expectations placed on Koa Kogyo also increase.

Koa Kogyo continues to be a company conscious of the local community and the environment. It will carry on the efforts and aim to be the number one company in the region, earning trust from all.

All information is based on interviews conducted in late September 2016.