There is a town in Japan which is known by many as the world’s first “zero-waste town”. It has been challenging its residents to reduce waste to zero by 2020 since the start of 2003.
Part of the town’s policy is to separate different household waste into 34 categories that are sent to be recycled. Since there’s no need for an incinerator, items are required to be washed. This makes the policy cheaper and more environment-friendly.
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Kamikatsu (上勝) is a small village located in the Katsuura District (勝浦郡) of Tokushima Prefecture (徳島県) with a population of under 2000 people. It used to be the production area of oranges and citrus fruits until the severely cold weather which allegedly withered many of the local trees. It is a typical rural community in the country which is, unfortunately, suffering from depopulation and aging.
Kamikatsu used to rely on an open incinerator to deal with the growing pile of non-biodegradable trash. However, this resulted in some serious health concerns in the town which needed to be addressed properly. Due to young people leaving for greener pastures, this further resulted in a lack of manpower and industries that were needed to sustain the community. With this, the community developed the policy called “Zero Waste” to help restore the town to its former glory.
The town attempts to attain a zero-waste environment by 2020. This declaration shows the community’s ambition towards keeping the rich, natural environment for future generations. It also hopes to accelerate the process of reusing and recycling as well as encourage people who have the same aim around the world.
The town has a rigorous waste management style which is quite a hassle if you’re not used to it. About 80% of the waste produced by the residents is being recycled. The remaining 20% goes to the landfill. This ambition is achievable by following the “3R” waste management approach: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. A way of recycling is establishing a waste collection center for people to bring their own daily waste. They have to separate them into 34 categories so only a few of them will be left for burning.
The sole waste collection spot in town is located at Hibigaya (日比ヶ谷) Station as there are no recycling trucks available. Here, you can see a number of baskets which collect steel cans, aluminum cans, plastic caps, brown glass bottles, paper packaging, and so on. It is important to wash, sort and separate the items ahead of time. There is a detailed sign which residents follow, explaining where everything goes and also describes what the items will be turned into and how much that process can cost or earn the whole community. There’s also a circular shop where people can drop off items they no longer use and take home anything they want for free. This, in turn, encourages “Reuse”.
Recycling 80 or even 100% of our waste has not yet become mainstream in the world. Hopefully, Kamikatsu’s laudable efforts will somehow help people realize the amount of waste we produce daily. It will make people realize that it is possible to create alternative methods that go beyond recycling to the actual elimination of trash. This is a hope for every town in a world with a growing serious waste problem.
Kamikatsu Town’s website *Japanese only