This article describes Japan's adoption of the sound material‐cycle society (SMC Society) as a key goal in its pursuit of sustainable development. An SMC Society is defined in Japanese law as a society wherein the consumption of natural resources is restrained and the environmental load is reduced as far as possible, through promotion of the 3Rs—reduction, reuse, and recycling—as well as the environmentally sound disposal of solid waste. The Fundamental Law for Establishing an SMC Society, enacted in 2000, requires the government to formulate a plan, two of which have been developed to date. The Fundamental Plans set quantitative targets for three indicators: resource productivity, cyclical use rate, and final disposal amount. Initial results indicate that resource productivity has increased because the increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) has been accompanied by a decrease in direct material input (DMI), the cycle use rate has increased–mainly because of the growth in the recycling rate of industrial waste–and the final disposal amount has been decreasing. These goals have also been pursued on a global scale through the Group of Eight (G8) process known as the 3R Initiative.