Kamikatsu waste management
Kamikatsu is a small town located in the mountains of Tokushima on the island of Shikoku, Japan. In September 2003, the town made a name for itself as a leader in sustainable waste management when it adopted Japan's first "Zero Waste Declaration". The declaration states that Kamikatsu will eliminate its reliance on incinerators and landfills by 2020 to become the first zero-waste community in the region.
With the implementation of the new waste management system, the recycling rate of household waste in Kamikatsu has already reached an unprecedented 90%, up from 55% in 1998. The waste that was formerly burned in rice fields and incinerators is now meticulously separated into no fewer than 34 different categories to be reused and recycled. Items that are worthy of being directly reused are sent to the Kuru Kuru recycling store where residents give and take clothing, kitchenware, etc., free of charge. Other items, such as wooden chopsticks and cooking oil, are sold to recycling companies (at a profit for the local government) and made into useful products like paper and fertilizer. Food waste is processed via small home-composting systems. With the help of government subsidies, 98% of households in Kamikatsu are equipped to handle their own organic waste, eliminating the need for an industrial composting facility.
Though there was initially some opposition to turning the town into an ecological experiment in waste management, recent polls show that 60% of residents are happy with the new system and optimistic about achieving their goal of zero-waste by 2020. Without legislation to enforce the "Zero Waste Declaration", and even without the convenience of curbside pickup, Kamikatsu has managed to change the minds and habits of the majority of its residents.
In Kamikatsu every household is expected to transport their own waste to the public 'Garbage Station' because home collection is not economically viable. This clearly defies the notion that convenience is essential for recycling programs to be effective. For those who aren't physically able to transport their own waste (namely the elderly without cars) a volunteer group called "Recycle Kamikatsu" will do it for them.
With the help of the Zero Waste Academy - established in 2005 to manage the zero-waste program and promote education on sustainable waste management practices through knowledge sharing initiatives - Kamikatsu is expected to continue as a leader in sustainable waste management, setting an example for other communities in Japan and around the world.