Epson Mizube Promotes Interaction among Students and People with Disabilities
On January 22, students from Seiryo High School in Suwa, Japan, paid a visit to Epson Mizube Corporation. At the plant, the students observed workers sort used ink cartridges from six printer manufacturers as part of the Ink Cartridge Homecoming Project promoted by the Japanese post office. Seiryo High School has been designated a Super Science School (SSH) by the Japanese Education & Science Ministry, and seven students participated as part of the High School Eco Action Project, which promotes environmental activities by high school students.
Epson Mizube was established in 1983 with the purpose of securing employment for people with disabilities. Employing 94 such employees as of the end of January 2013, the company fulfills an important role in the Ink Cartridge Homecoming Project by sorting ink cartridges collected throughout Japan, and sending them back to the various printer manufacturers for recycling.
After observing the flow of the cartridges around the plant, the students toured the facilities, which have been modified for the benefit of the disabled workers. Students saw how the work had been adapted to suit the capability of each worker, and how the workers deftly separated the cartridges from paper and other trash that people had put into cartridge collection boxes. The students were especially impressed to see how IT was used. Workers use tablet PCs to trace the flow of ink cartridges being transported to the plant, while Twitter is used to provide regular updates on the cartridge collection situation.
The students then tried out sorting ink cartridges for themselves. They were divided into small teams of two or three and faced off against a single Epson Mizube worker to see who could sort cartridges the fastest and most accurately. Despite the advantage of numbers, the students were unable to defeat the experienced workers no matter how many times they tried.
At the end of the day, the students engaged in a discussion about the environment with members of the Nagano prefectural and Suwa municipal assemblies, and city employees who had all observed the day's proceedings. The students grilled the politicians and city employees with questions about the future of Japanese policy towards the environment and local environmental programs.