Plastic, paper, metal? In Japan’s Kamikatsu, sorting rubbish isn’t that simple. Residents face a mind-boggling 45 separate categories for their garbage as the town aims to be “zero-waste” by next year.
And that’s not all: there isn’t even trash collection. The 1,500 residents of the town in western Japan have to transport their waste themselves to a local facility.
“Yes, it’s complicated,” said Naoko Yokoyama, a 39-year-old resident who had brought her trash to the town’s waste center.
“But I have become more environmentally conscious since I moved here a year ago,” she said.
The categories cover everything from pillows to toothbrushes as the town aims to recycle all its waste, sending nothing to incinerators, by next year.
The process can be onerous — not only are there dozens of separate categories, but items like plastic bags and bottles must be washed and dried to facilitate recycling.
At the town’s waste facility, there are dozens of different boxes for each category. If the parts of an item fall into different categories for recycling, residents are expected to take them apart and send each bit to the right container.
One man who had brought in a shelf had to use a hammer to pry the wood from the metal, while elsewhere workers chopped up a thick, long rubber tube so it would fit into a sorting box.
Many parts of Japan already require separation of rubbish, but most areas have just a few categories, with the bulk of household waste going to incinerators.
Kamikatsu was not much different until an ultimatum: in 2000, the town was ordered to shut down one of its incinerators because it no longer met stricter emissions standards.
That left the town with just one incinerator that couldn’t handle all of Kamikatsu’s waste, and there wasn’t enough money for a new one or to pay a neighboring town for use of theirs.
“We thought, ‘If we can’t burn waste in the town, then let’s recycle.’ It’s cheaper to recycle waste than burn it,” said town official Midori Suga.
Kamikatsu is already close to achieving its goal, recycling about 80 percent of the 286 tonnes of waste it produced in 2017, far more than the national average of 20 percent.
The remainder, like most waste in Japan, is incinerated, as the country’s mountainous terrain considered unsuitable for landfills.
The nation produces less general waste per person than most developed countries, but it generates more plastic waste per capita than anywhere except the US.
In the past, some plastic was exported for recycling, particularly to China, but a ban by Beijing on imports has left plastic recyclables piling up in parts of Japan.
Still, not all residents think the initiative could work elsewhere.
“It works because we’re only 1,500 people here,” said Yokoyama, who moved from Kyoto.
“It would be difficult in a big town with a larger population,” she added, because authorities would struggle to enforce it.
But other residents say the policy is just common sense.
“I understand it’s convenient to just burn waste,” said 71-year-old local Saeko Takahashi, as she washed milk cartons and tied newspapers together.
“It’s better to recycle, it’s such a waste otherwise,” she explained. She uses a compost bin for food waste such as fish and meat and throws vegetable waste directly into her garden.
“Food lasts longer when it’s shipped in plastic packaging. So it’s not all bad, but multiple layers of plastic aren’t necessary,” added Takahashi.
Kazuyuki Kiyohara, manager of the waste center, said plastic makes up the majority of the residents’ waste — and despite the scheme there has been little reduction in consumption.
“Our lifestyle depends mainly on plastic,” the 38-year-old said, adding: “Consumers can reduce plastic waste to a certain extent, but we’ll still have waste if producers keep making plastic products.”
Japan’s government unveiled a proposal last year to tackle plastic waste, with the goal of reducing the 9.4 million tonnes produced by the country each year by a quarter by 2030.
The plan proposes that retailers should charge for plastic bags — a measure already widely adopted around the world — but that isn’t expected to come into effect before next year and other types of plastic packaging won’t be covered.
Town official Suga said even Kamikatsu will struggle to achieve zero-waste without stronger efforts to reduce consumption.
“We have made efforts to achieve zero incineration and zero landfill disposal goals, but it’s not enough,” she said, adding: “We shouldn’t focus just on how to dispose of trash. We need to come up with policies that prevent the production of waste.”
Tobie Openshaw is confident that Taiwan’s government has good reasons for not including him in the Triple Stimulus Voucher Program, which launched at the beginning of this month. That’s just as well, because it seems unlikely he’ll ever discover the logic by which it was decided that he, along with other foreign residents not currently married to Taiwan citizens, shouldn’t receive the vouchers. “We’ve stood side-by-side with our Taiwanese friends through the COVID-19 crisis, complying with government measures, cheering its success and sharing that news with the world at large. If the stimulus coupons are meant to be spent to keep
When the BBC approached Caroline Chia (查慧中) in July 2018, and asked her to make arrangements so a documentary-making team could gather footage showing how global warming may be increasing typhoon intensity, she delivered everything that was in her power to provide. Chia got permission for the BBC crew to shoot inside the Central Emergency Operation Center, film the army’s disaster-relief efforts and follow mayors around as they supervised the cleaning up. “In total, it was about one week of work for my cousin — who’s my business partner — and I,” recalls Chia, who was born in Taipei but
Taiwan’s artist community was outraged when the authorities banned Lee Shih-chiao’s (李石樵) Reclining Nude (橫臥裸婦) from the 1936 Taiyang Art Exhibition (台陽美術展覽會). The Taiwan Daily News (台灣日日新報) reported that after hours of deliberation, the officials censored the piece for “contravening public morals.” Although the government did have rules on publicly displaying nude art, the state-run Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition regularly featured naked women, allowing more revealing pieces each year. On the same page, the newspaper ran a scathing criticism of the decision by an anonymous artist. “This is completely laughable … If they really thought [Reclining Nude] contravened public morals, they
John Thomson was a pioneering photographer in the 19th century and one of the first to journey to East Asia. In 1871, while in China he met Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell, a fellow Scotsman who was returning to Taiwan, where he served as a Presbyterian missionary. Maxwell’s description of Taiwan intrigued Thomson, and the photographer decided to accompany Maxwell to the island then known to Westerners as Formosa. Disembarking at Takow (today’s Kaohsiung) on April 2, 1871, Thomson brought with him the best photography equipment of his time, along with thousands of glass plates — an estimated 200kg of equipment. The