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Kamikatsu, Japan – zero waste town

February 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm

There’s a chance you may have heard of the small town of Kamikatsu in south-western Japan. Its 2000 residents are embarking on an environmental and cost-saving project that may make them a model for the rest of the world, and has certainly got them noticed on UK shores.

For starters, the town doesn’t need any rubbish collectors. It doesn’t need them because the town’s goal is to be producing absolutely no waste by the year 2020. Instead, they are required to sort every possible piece of household rubbish into one of 34 categories for recycling.

Here are some of the categories: glass (brown, green, clear, other), tin cans, sake bottles, lighters, electric razors, cardboard boxes, nappies/sanitary towels, milk cartons, plastic containers, plastic bottles (separated by type), plastic bags…

Why put themselves through that? Well for a number of reasons. In particular, this option was both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than landfill provision over the next 12 years, or building new incinerators after the town’s original ones became too polluting to pass new regulations.

Certainly the change hasn’t been accepted completely willingly – it’s taken time for the aging residents to come round to the idea, and according to a recent poll, 40% of residents still object to having to wash everything before palming it off for recycling. But home composters are in use in 98% of households and attitudes improve with every passing day.

But would any of this ‘wash’ in the UK? It’s probably too early, in my humble opinion. It’s true, recycling uptake has dramatically improved and continues to do so – according to government figures, 30% of rubbish is recycled by those in the east of England. Barnet in north London recently reached a target of 28% after introducing a ‘compulsory recycling scheme’ – something which, believe it or not, requires regular enforcement by officers provided for the purpose.

There’s a lot we can learn though, and as a country we ought to admire the tenacity of a small rural Japanese town for making a giant step towards saving the planet.

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2 responses to “Kamikatsu, Japan – zero waste town”

  1. kathryn converse says:

    I have a friend who will be visiting Osaka in September 2013 and she would like to visit Kamikatsu. She is very interested in total recycling. How does she travel to Kamilkatsu from Tokushima?

  2. Pramendra Kumar Singh says:

    Excellent Job. People can learn and follow the methods to manage the garbage which may be quite useful to preserve the mother nature.

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