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"Hey, is this the purpose of the game?" Shota's sister Yuna pointed to the button flashing on the screen.

<<Building bright and sustainable future>>

"That's right. Each time a theme is shown, and there is a quiz about what is needed to reach the goal," Shota answered. Yuna said excitedly, "So there will be a quiz about what is good for the environment. Hurry, Shota, click the button."

In recent years, elementary schools started covering environmental issues in their classrooms. Yuna was a fifth-grade student, but she was very interested in environmental issues. If Shota watched the television in the living room with the light on in his room, she would come and tell him not to waste electricity. If he put recyclable plastic waste in the bin for combustible waste, she would be upset and scold him.

Ecologically sustainable life style is important for <<Building bright and sustainable future>>. But this is a site to learn about "what a sogo-shosha does," so what Yuna's concern for properly sorting waste must be irrelevant.

"Hurry, Shota. Press the button. I think you will be asked how not to waste resources!" Yuna said jokingly. Shota pressed the button with a wry smile. A question appeared on the screen.

<<What is necessary for efficient use of limited resources?>>

"I knew it!" Yuna said excitedly and smiled triumphantly. "The answer should be something like, 'sort waste properly and recycle precious resources'." Shota looked at Yuna and said, "You can't be right. This is a site where you learn about how the work of Mitsui & Co., a sogo-shosha, is helping people living all around the world. The answer cannot be as simple as something you do every day, like 'recycling'."

Just then, a voice came out from the screen. "Your sister's answer is almost right." Shota and Yuna looked into the screen, and there was the "recycling Bussan-jin" with the letter "R" on his forehead. "The exact answer is 'total recycling'."

"Total recycling by a sogo-shosha," Shota muttered, not knowing what it meant. Yuna was indignant, "How is my recycling different from 'total recycling'?" "Thank you for asking!" Bussan-jin was pleased and started to explain.

"There are two characteristics that describe the recycling that Mitsui & Co. is tackling. One is that we address resource recycling on the global level with the sogo-shosha's global human resource network and bases. Another is that we are trying to build a new recycling system using our comprehensive capabilities, in a field where recycling has not been implemented."

Shota and Yuna didn't know what to say and remained silent. The recycling Bussan-jin cleared his throat. "I'll explain further. First, please have a look at this." He said and showed a graph.

The recycling Bussan-jin said, "When we dig up resources that are buried underground and use them to construct buildings and manufacture automobiles and home appliances, we are changing the shape of the underground resources and accumulating them above the ground. The amount of underground resources is reduced, and the amount of aboveground resources is increased."

"I see. So regardless of whether resources are underground or aboveground, the total amount of resources stays the same..." Before Shota finished his sentence, Yuna put her hand on Shota's mouth and said, "I can kind of understand that. But once resources are turned into buildings and automobiles, I suppose we can no longer use them as 'resources', can we?" Shota nodded reluctantly, too, with his mouth still covered by Yuna's hand.

"Yes, we can. Let me show you the data." The recycling Bussan-jin showed a new graph.

Shota was surprised. "I thought Japan doesn't have many resources. I've heard that there is no iron, too. Why has the steel been increasing?" The recycling Bussan-jin answered. "You are right. There is almost no iron ore in Japan. The 'Steel Stockpile' here indicates the total amount of iron that is used and accumulated in Japan in some form, such as scrap iron recycled from demolished buildings and automobiles. The amount has been increasing just like the 'aboveground resource' in the graph you saw. As a result...Look at this now." Bussan-jin showed the next graph.

Shota said, "This is strange. I learned at school that Japan is a large-scale resource importer, but this graph says that scrap iron export is bigger than the import since 1992!" Yuna was also puzzled, "What's more, import became almost zero while export is growing rapidly. It's like saying that Japan is a large-scale iron exporter." "This is probably related to the sogo-shosha's 'resource recycling on the global level using the global power' that Bussan-jin was talking about," said Shota. Yuna asked, "Then, how about the other characteristic, 'building a new recycling system'? What do they recycle using this system?"

Instead of answering the questions, the recycling Bussan-jin asked a question. "Have you heard of the word 'urban mine'?" Shota thought for a while but gave up thinking and looked at his sister. Yuna said, "I have heard of it. But I don't know what it means exactly." Shota was surprised, "What? You've heard of it?"

The recycling Bussan-jin smiled gently and said, "Seeing is believing. I'll show you how the sogo-shosha Mitsui & Co. tackles 'total recycling'." He showed a familiar-looking report article on the screen.

*Job titles and organization names as of March 2012

©2011-2012 Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. Nikkei Business Online Special, Translated by Mitsui & Co., Ltd.

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