The village of Kamikatsu used to burn all of their trash, but in 2003, all of that changed.
It can be such a pain to separate plastic and paper from the rest of the trash. But if you thought you had it bad, then you certainly haven't lived in the small village of Kamikatsu in southwestern Japan. The locals here don't just have a few categories to deal with; they have 34 of them, and they have to adhere to those rules in order to separate their waste correctly. The categories are so specific that it would give many of us a headache. But the efforts of each villager have given Kamikatsu its reputation for being a zero-waste town.The city realized that incinerating their waste was having a detrimental effect on the environment. In fact, studies showed that waste incinerators released toxins and greenhouse gases that ultimately hurt the town's food supply.
They sought change after realizing how their waste management program was hurting the environment.
The city's primary mission was to create a program that would produce zero waste. Of course, it wasn't always easy for the townspeople to get used to this change. There were 34 categories that came from separate waste now.
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It took a while for the locals to get used to this new way of managing their waste products.
The categories were really specific, like steel cans, aluminum cans, paper flyers, paper cartons. They also had to wash, sort, and then bring their trash to a processing center, where workers double check to make sure that every piece of trash goes where it's supposed to go.
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The town didn't just learn how to sort their trash, but to also recycle things they used to throw away.
Now there are places where locals create useful items using discard products, and they include turning old kimonos into teddy bears for children. The townspeople also will also hand in furniture and clothes they no longer want. In exchange, they can pick items that others have left, and it's free of charge.
Today, 80 percent of the garbage in Kamikatsu is either composted, reused, or gets recycled.
The remaining trash that can't be reused in any way, shape or form, gets sent to a landfill. Deputy chief officer of the Zero Waste Academy, Akira Sakano, continues to work with the town to ensure that it achieves its goal to become fully sustainable.
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This new form of waste management is a huge lifestyle change and it's clearly working.
The town has saved a third of the costs that was once expended when the waste incinerators were used. While other cities around the world struggle to become waste-free, the goal for the Kamikatsu people is to become a zero-waste society by the year 2020.
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According to a 2015 report by the World Bank, 1.4 billion people will be wasting 3 pounds of trash a day.
This projection doubles today's average, so it's refreshing to see that the town of Kamikatsu is aiming towards a cleaner goal, and other cities may follow. San Diego, California plans to lower trash disposal by 75 percent by the year 2030, and New York City would like to be waste-free within the next 15 years.
Regardless of where you go, you're likely going to find wrappers and food scraps on the streets.
Ironically, trash, which often repels people, could end up unifying the world towards a common goal to become a zero-waste society, much like the 1,500 mountainside townspeople of Kamikatsu.
You're probably wondering why the people of Kamikatsu have to do all the work separating trash.
Unfortunately, the village doesn't have garbage trucks, so it relies on the townspeople to do all the hard work and then bringing the trash to the cycling center. But as this process has become so common, people are doing what's expected, and it's become a natural routine for them.
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The Kamikatsu people's efforts couldn't have come at a better time for the entire planet.
Earth itself is practically drowning in all the garbage that humanity is producing. But since Kamikatsu, one of the poorest villages in Japan, is managing to achieve this goal, other towns in Japan are doing it too.
Businesses in Kamikatsu have gotten onboard the zero-waste process in 2016 and for one good reason.
When business sort and recycle their waste properly and train their workers in practices that help them reach their goal of zero-waste, they end up getting a Zero Waste accreditation, which will inspire other business to follow suit.
The Kuru Kuru craft center is just one of the stores that has turned trash into useful items.
The center brings in 2,000 visitors every year to look for shirts, scarves, sandals, jackets and other cool items that have been made using old items that no one wanted. There's even a sewing and knitting studio next to the center where these items are built.
**The village of Kamikatsu is more than just a peaceful town full of warm, friendly people. It's also invested in the future of our environment, hence why it's determined to become a zero waste village by 2020. Watch the video below to see more.**