On 11 March 2011, a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck East Japan. The ensuing tsunami caused tremendous loss of life and unprecedented structural damage. 

The disaster generated some 29 million tonnes of debris in the Tohoku region alone.

Given Japan's reputation as one of the best disaster-prepared countries in the world, there has been intense interest from waste management and emergency response specialists internationally in how Japan has coped following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

In order to learn from the Japanese experience, UNEP - with funding and organizational support from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs - staged an International Expert Mission from 27 February to 5 March 2012.

By studying the response to an exceptional volume of debris, UNEP hopes to share the Japanese experiences and approaches to help other countries be better prepared to handle debris generated by major disasters.

The mission included site visits to waste management and debris recycling facilities, and meetings with local officials and others directly involved in the post-disaster waste management effort.

Tokyo press conference 5 March 2012

Next steps

Estimating waste volumes after a disaster is a major challenge as all subsequent actions depend on reasonable estimates. UNEP will make special efforts to improve estimation techniques, using data and experiences from the Expert Mission.

UNEP and the Government of Japan will continue to work together and disseminate the lessons learned, including the efforts to recycle and dispose of waste in an environmentally sound manner. A report and video are being produced to explain disaster waste management initiatives employed in Japan which could be used in similar situations in other countries.


More information

The project is managed by UNEP's International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) in Osaka, Japan, and UNEP's Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Please contact PCDMB: postconflict@unep.org