If you get fed up with dealing with two or three recycling bins, think how it is for the residents of Kamikatsu, the town in Japan that recycles absolutely everything. As a result, the town is totally zero waste, and people make a concerted effort not to buy stuff they don’t need, or else they would have to spend all their spare time sorting it out for different bins, at end of use.
This town is so litter-free that it has more tourists arrive to see what they are doing, than it has residents. All waste materials are composted or upcycled, there’s a ‘free’ second-hand shop so people can come and help themselves to other people’s donated items, and there is even a local building with discarded windows, where you can bring reusable bottles, to fill up with local craft beer. The 45 recycling categories include:
- Cans (aluminium, steel, aerosol, metal caps)
- Glass (clear, white, coloured, sake bottles)
- Light bulbs (3 types) plus broken ones
- Plastic trays & bottles
- Milk and juice packs
- Cardboard and newspaper and magazines
- Cigarette lighters
- Cooking oil
- White goods
- Food waste
- Garden waste
- Agricultural waste
All employees are trained in zero waste principles and the local store offers free second-hand furniture and other donated by local artisans. Even the local brewery makes use of donated fruit peels and turns spent grain into compost. The local hotel is made from donated windows and discarded doors, and in the entire city, only a few items end up in landfill to be burned (PVC plastic and disposable nappies – so the local families now receive cloth nappy starter kits to try to deter). And rather than costing the city money, sellign all the waste and reducing incineration has saved them a fortune.
Where is Kamikatsu?
Most of us don’t know our Japanese geography very well. It’s a small town of less than 2000 people, located in a mountain area near the city of Tokushima. Both are located on Shikoku, one of Japan’s four islands, home to over 3 million people and the only one not to have active volcanoes. The other three islands are Kyushu (nearest to Asia), Hokkaido (the most northerly) and Honshu (home to Tokyo).
Why Japan is (almost) Litter-Free
In Japan, littering is illegal. But the difference is that the law is taken seriously. You don’t get litter anywhere (it carries a £100 fine, even if you drop a can or cigarette butt – even dog walkers carry bags and bottles of water to wash the pavement afterwards).
Most trash cans were removed in 1995, after the Sarin Gas attack (which injured 5000 people) made people wary of bombs lurking in such places. So now you only find trash cans in parks (picnics are a huge hobby in Japan) and train stations. And you’ll also find recycling bins next to vending machines.
In Japan, it’s the norm for people to simply take their rubbish home with them. In fact, if you buy something to eat on the street, it’s quite the normal thing to do, to simply return and hand the packaging back to the person who sold you the food!