Since July 1st, shops in Japan have been required to charge the plastic bags. Japan has had a pressure to reduce usage of plastic to combat environmental problems, such as damage on the ecosystem, groundwater contamination and dirty water. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it can only break to smaller and smaller pieces, and therefore it is a toxic which takes 400 – 1,000 years to disappear in the environment. Our usage of plastic has mostly an impact on the ocean ecosystem. According to ConservingNow.com in some places in the world, there is 46 times more plastic in the ocean than food for sea animals.
Beside of this national measure in Japan, there are some villages in Japan which have a Zero-Waste policy. For example, Ikaruga town in Nara, Mizuma in Fukuoka, but the first village which started with a Zero-Waste Policy is Kamikatsu. Kamikatsu is small town in Shikoku Prefecture, only reachable by car or bus from Tokushima City. It was an unknown place, until they started as the first place Zero-Waste declaration in Japan. Surprisingly, people come there as visitors to see the garbage system or to experience the Zero-Waste life style. This year, the hotel has opened for visitors who want to join for a Zero-Waste workshop program.
Zero-Waste Concept means aiming to reducing, reusing and recycling waste. This leads to a healthier and better lifestyle for human beings, animals, trees and other nature-creatures. Also Kamikatsu could be a typical Japanese ghost town, but it has been changed drastically. The municipality earns by selling waste like paper (which can bring 2.5 million yen yearly). These earnings can be used to pay the waste disposal cost. It is a circular system, like the Circle of Life explanation of Mufasa to his cub Simba in the movie ‘the Lion King’.
Some Sustainable and Zero-Waste measures in Kamikatsu:
- Recycling > In a new building designed by an architect, people can separate their waste in 45 categories, aluminum cans, newspaper, cardboard, styrofoam, chopsticks, used oil, clothes, batteries, light bulbs etc.
- Recycling > Giving subsidies for purchasing composters for composting waste.
- Reusing > They have a free second hand shop called Kuru Kuru Shop. Locals can bring items and everybody (locals and visitors) can take anything for free.
- Reusing > Used clothes and other certain items can be used at the Kuru Kuru Craft Center. Mainly seniors craft new items from those used materials and sell them afterwards. In the summer, Kamikatsu organizes a summer festival to promote these items and items from Kuru Kuru shops.
- Reducing > The commercial businesses are encouraged to join this waste policy to reduce more waste by giving certain logos to promote themselves, towards visitors.
- Reducing > The municipality encourages the locals to throw away waste in that Waste Station by a point campaign. After collecting enough points, they can be exchanged to free functional items, like toilet paper, detergents, lighter and so on. Every month, 10 people who throw away garbage properly, will have a chance of 1,000 yen gift coupon.
- Sustainable > Kamikatsu is also about biological food. Café Polaster is a restaurant which only use local biological products. They have a shop called BuY shop, which sells local food products. Last but not least, a new hip building, built of used materials, like used bricks and used windows, Rise & Win Brewing Co. has opened. It has local barbeque meat and own brewed beer Kamikatz.
Compared to other countries Japan has made a slow start in reducing waste especially plastic. Japan had the largest amount of plastic waste in the world and it produced about 9 million tons of plastic waste annually.
Japan is changing step-by-step; as we can see from Kamikatsu, other zero-waste towns and the new reducing plastic bag policy.
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