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7/19/2004
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Japanese Waste-Management Company Tests RFID

It's working with IBM to see if it can use the technology to trace medical waste.

Japanese waste-management company Kureha Environmental Engineering Co. has begun tests to determine if it can use radio-frequency identification technology to trace medical waste. IBM is helping the Japanese company conduct the test at IBM Japan's RFID Solutions Center in Yamato, Japan.

Kureha Environmental Engineering says it's the first test of its kind using RFID in the Asia-Pacific region to track medical waste. The aim is to verify the effectiveness of RFID tagging in tracking medical-waste materials as they're transferred to disposal sites. The primary goal is to prevent illegal waste disposal by creating accountability with a tracing system for hospitals and transportation companies in Japan.

According to IBM, Japan's Environment Ministry estimated last year that more than 11 million cubic meters of industrial waste had been illegally dumped in the country. Medical waste represents a tiny fraction of that sum, but it creates potential health problems. Amendments to Japan's Waste Disposal and Public Cleansing Law have resulted in stricter regulations on illegal dumping of industrial waste. Under the latest regulations, individuals committing acts of illegal dumping would be punished, along with the hospitals and plants where the waste originated.

Cardboard and plastic containers used by Kureha Environmental Engineering will be equipped with RFID tags, and signal-reading antennas installed at IBM's RFID Solution Center. The test will examine signal sensitivity and readout precision parameters. Trials are expected to conclude in early August. If successful, onsite testing will follow at Kureha Environmental Engineering's waste-processing site. If all goes as planned, Kureha General Hospital in Fukushima, Japan, is expected to implement the RFID system in the near future to track its discarded medical waste.

Japan is no stranger to RFID. School authorities in Osaka last week decided RFID will track children in a primary school. Next month, ID cards containing RFID tags will begin transmitting to readers installed in gates and other locations around the school. The RFID-equip ID cards will track the children's movements through the school. The system was developed by NAJ Corp., a Japanese company.

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