We’ve heard many stories of individuals across the world who’ve adopted a zero-waste lifestyle, but it’s not often that we come across an entire community that is trying to become waste-free. The residents of Kamikatsu, Japan, take recycling so seriously that they actually hope to become the nation’s first zero-waste community by 2020.
Kamikatsu has no garbage trucks – so residents need to compost their kitchen scraps at home. They also have to wash and sort the rest of their trash into 34 different categories, and bring it to the recycling center themselves where workers make sure that the waste goes into the correct bins. It apparently took some time for the residents to get used to this rule, but they eventually managed to adapt to the drastic changes and are now seeing them as normal.
The Japanese town has turned recycling into a streamlined process – there are separate bins for different types of paper products – newspapers, magazines, cartons, and flyers. Even plastic bottles and their caps go into different bins as do aluminum, spray, and steel cans are collected separately too. Many of these items are resold or repurposed into usable clothing, toys, and accessories. The labels on each bin show the recycling process for that specific item, so the residents know exactly what happens to their trash.
Reuse is highly encouraged in Kamikatsu – they have a local kuru-kuru shop where residents can exchange used items with new things at no extra cost. And the kuru-kuru factory employs women to make bags, clothes, and stuffed dolls out of discarded items. Businesses are also encouraged to participate in responsible waste management – the town has a zero-waste brewery, housed in a building constructed of reused materials.
With a population of just over 1,700, Kamikatsu recycles about 80 percent of its trash and only 20 percent goes to landfills, so you could say that the town is very close to achieving its goal. They’ve been practicing prudent waste management for the past 13 years after declaring their zero-waste ambition in 2003 and giving up their old practice of dumping trash into open fires.
“If you get used to it, it becomes normal,” a Kamikatsu resident said in a video made by YouTube channel Seeker Stories. “It can be a pain, and at first we were opposed to the idea. Now I don’t think about it. It’s become natural to separate the trash correctly.”
All the recycling facilities in Kamikatsu are managed by a Zero Waste Academy which also regularly hosts groups of local schoolchildren and foreign visitors, educating them on the benefits of a zero waste lifestyle. Every years, the Academy receives around 2,500 visitors from all around the world, all eager to learn more about zero-waste and how Kamikatsu has managed to implement its principles in such a short period of time.
Photos: BBC via Niome