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Japan’s Zero Waste City Kamikatsu

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In Japan’s Kamikatsu, sorting rubbish isn’t that simple. Residents face a mind-boggling 45 separate categories for their garbage as the town aims to be “zero-waste” by 2020. And that’s not all: there isn’t even trash collection. The 1,500 residents of the town in western Japan have to transport their waste themselves to a local facility.

The categories cover everything from pillows to toothbrushes as the town aims to recycle all its waste, sending nothing to incinerators. The process can be onerous—not only are there dozens of separate categories, but items like plastic bags and bottles must be washed and dried to facilitate recycling. At the town’s waste facility, there are dozens of different boxes for each category. If the parts of an item fall into different categories for recycling, residents are expected to take them apart and send each bit to the right container.

Many parts of Japan already require separation of rubbish, but most areas have just a few categories, with the bulk of household waste going to incinerators. Kamikatsu was not much different until an ultimatum: in 2000, the town was ordered to shut down one of its incinerators because it no longer met stricter emissions standards. That left the town with just one incinerator that couldn’t handle all of Kamikatsu’s waste, and there wasn’t enough money for a new one or to pay a neighbouring town for use of theirs. That is when the town governance thought, ‘Waste can’t be burnt in the town, but it can definitely be recycled. And it’s cheaper to recycle waste than burn it.

Kamikatsu is already close to achieving its goal, recycling about 80 percent of the 286 tonnes of waste it produced in 2017, far more than the national average of 20 percent. The remainder, like most waste in Japan, is incinerated, as the country’s mountainous terrain considered unsuitable for landfills. The nation produces less general waste per person than most developed countries, but it generates more plastic waste per capita than anywhere except the United States.

Zero waste program in Kamikatsu works because there are only 1,500 people here. It would be difficult in a big town with a larger population. In 2018, Japan’s government unveiled a proposal to tackle plastic waste, with the goal of reducing the 9.4 million tonnes produced by the country each year by a quarter by 2030. The plan proposes that retailers should charge for plastic bags—a measure already widely adopted around the world—but that isn’t expected to come into effect before 2020 and other types of plastic packaging won’t be covered. As for Kamikatsu, the town is already coming up with policies that prevent the production of waste itself.

Zeba Warsia – NMTV News.


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