First Japanese zero waste community by 2020?

Kamikatsu, a small village in the mountains of Shikoku Island in south-west Japan, aims at being the country’s first zero-waste community by 2020. The village was forced to change its garbage management in 2000 when strict new regulations forced it to shut down its incinerators. Since 2003, Kamikatsu's 2,000 inhabitants have been part of an ecological experiment. According to Sonoe Fujii of the village's Zero Waste Academy, the best policy was not to produce any garbage in the first place since they were no longer able to burn it.

Data shows that Kamikatsu's recycling rate has risen from 55 % a decade ago to about 80% today. Five years after the scheme's inception 98% of the population uses home composters, which cost a modest 3,000 yen (€ 18) each with government subsidies. Any waste that is not composted is taken to the village's zero waste centre. It has to be separated into 34 categories. Glass bottles must be without their caps and sorted by colour, plastic bottles for soy sauce and cooking oil must be kept separate from Pet bottles that contained mineral water and green tea. All bottles, cans and even plastic food wrappers must be washed; newspapers and magazines have to be piled into bundles. Anything in good condition ends up at a recycling store. Residents may drop off or take home whatever they like free of charge.


For some items, however, the only option remains incineration. Glass, ceramics and light bulbs are buried in landfills; batteries are shipped hundreds of miles to a recycling plant. Critics state there are also other disadvantages: some of the composters use electricity and most residents have no choice but to take their rubbish to the centre by car. A recent poll showed that 40% of residents were still unhappy about at least one aspect of the zero waste policy. "We still have opponents, particularly because almost everything has to be washed," Mr. Fujii said. "All we can do is talk to the doubters and explain why what they're doing is so important."


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