Recycled Tea Leaves
ITO EN's Tea Bench is composed of 20% recycled tea leaves.
A major undertaking was to apply our aggressive recycling ethic to the tea leaves that we use in the production process. In the fiscal year ended April 30, 2006, the company generated around 42,000 tons of used tea leaves during the course of its beverage manufacturing operations (by ITO EN estimates). The volume has continued to increase, highlighting the need for effective recycling. A majority of the used leaves are returned to the earth as a natural fertilizer. Several tons are likewise used in natural animal feed.
Aside from these recycling methods, one of the most exciting discoveries is the use of these leaves as a construction material. In conjunction with other companies, ITO EN has developed:
ITO EN Recycled Vending Machine
- Boards made from used tea leaves, used widely as material for making tatami mats (Japanese floor mats)
- An Environmental Synthetic Resin made from used tea leaves, which is used in a variety of products, from daily commodities, such as soap cases and ballpoint pens, to vending machines (shown at right) and public benches (shown above). The eco-friendly vending machines have a wood-grain texture which help them blend harmoniously with their natural surroundings.
- Plaster boards made from used tea leaves, which may be used in construction as interior insulation boards and other building materials
- Paper products made from used tea leaves, which are used as material for cardboard boxes. Ito En uses cardboard boxes made of used tea leaves as packaging material
All these materials retain the antibacterial and deodorizing properties of green tea. In recognition of its recycling activities, ITO EN received the Grand Prize from the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the Energy Services Section at the Second Eco Products Awards, held in 2005. In 2006, ITO EN was awarded the 2006 Environment Ministry’s Grand Prize at the WASTEC Awards, which are presented annually by the Organizing Committee for Japan’s Waste Control and Recycling Technology Exhibition (WASTEC). Ito En also received the Environment Minister’s Prize for Global Warming Prevention Activities.
ITO EN is honored by these recognitions, and pledge to continue undertaking proactive research into the development of products made from Used Tea Leaves and promoting their widespread adoption. In doing so, Ito En seeks to instill the notion that used tea leaves are not "waste products," but "beneficial resources" for society.