RE­CY­CLING HYPE

mailife - - Special -

Story and Pho­tos by RACHNA NATH When you think of waste man­age­ment, what springs to mind? Large rub­bish trucks cart­ing garbage for dis­posal? Per­haps re­cy­cling of kitchen refuse or maybe im­ages of huge waste treat­ment plants and land­fills brim­ming with all kinds of gross trash. What­ever your idea of waste man­age­ment, chances are it’s not the elab­o­rate and ef­fec­tive model the Ja­panese have de­vised. In Ja­pan, waste man­age­ment is really a way of life. It’s not about just dis­card­ing rub­bish into re­cy­cle bins but a life­style of re­duc­ing, reusing and re­cy­cling just about any­thing. The con­cept of ‘zero-waste’ lies at the heart of this no­tion of waste man­age­ment. All it takes is a stroll in Tokyo to re­alise there aren’t many rub­bish bins along the streets. You’d be for­given for think­ing that trash there sim­ply doesn’t ex­ist, given the im­pec­ca­bly clean road­sides. It all seems very fu­tur­is­tic. When you do sight a trash can, it’s not just one but sev­eral, leav­ing you to fig­ure out just which bin your lit­ter goes into. Ja­pan is kept im­mac­u­lately clean and its peo­ple su­per keen on re­cy­cling. Ev­ery­one, from the youngest to the most el­derly have bought into the sys­tem. It doesn’t just hap­pen, it’s a com­mu­nity ef­fort that starts in the house­hold. Ev­ery home is lit­er­ally re­spon­si­ble for their house­hold garbage – and it can be­come a com­pli­cated process. Ev­ery piece of lit­ter has to be sorted and ba­si­cally cleaned and house­hold­ers must make sure they take out the cor­rect rub­bish on the day. One of Ja­pan’s lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties has re­fined the process to be­come a shin­ing ex­am­ple of an ef­fec­tive zero waste model. Res­i­dents at the Kawasaki City are tasked with metic­u­lously sort­ing their rub­bish ev­ery day. Mon­days are for glass bot­tles and cans, Wed­nes­day and Satur­days for kitchen waste, Tues­days for plas­tic and Fri­days for pa­per waste. Once sorted, res­i­dents are ex­pected to put the rub­bish in spe­cific trans­par­ent bags and take them to rub­bish col­lec­tion points around their neigh­bour­hood. These garbage bag sites have no foul smell be­cause the rub­bish is taken out on the in the morn­ing of col­lec­tion and cleared by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity within a few hours. Do­ing these rub­bish tasks may seem in­con­ve­nient and com­pli­cated, but it’s not im­pos­si­ble. The at­ti­tude to sup­port the sys­tem is in­stilled from a very young age. Chil­dren are taught the im­por­tance of proper waste dis­posal, a bot­tom up ap­proach that is largely why Ja­pan’s im­pres­sive waste man­age­ment sys­tem works. Lit­er­ally ev­ery­thing col­lected by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is re­cy­cled in a sys­tem that in­volves the pri­vate sec­tor. At a col­lec­tion fa­cil­ity the mu­nic­i­pal­ity again hand sorts the rub­bish into plas­tics and pa­per, bails it up and sends it to a re­cy­cling fac­tory. Mr Ya­suyuki Ito, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s re­cy­cling chief said that i n the 1990s, Kawasaki City recog­nised there would be no space for any more land­fill in the near fu­ture. “That gave a strong sense of cri­sis to the cit­i­zens so at that time so the city pro­moted the aware­ness of the im­por­tance of re­cy­cling, es­pe­cially amongst young ones in el­e­men­tary school.” It wasn’t just Kawasaki City that had to deal with this cri­sis. All of Ja­pan ac­tu­ally had to deal with this dilemma first brought to light in the early 1960s. If mass pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion con­tin­ued in an up­ward trend, Ja­pan would lit­er­ally have a tonne-load of prob­lems on their hands. Pol­icy mak­ers had to find a fea­si­ble so­lu­tion for its garbage or sink un­der its weight. Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics by Waste At­las, a sin­gle Ja­panese per­son pro­duces an ‘av­er­age of 356.2kg of waste per year.

In Ja­pan waste man­age­ment is a way of life

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