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Note: translation of Japanese language (which is provided in the video) is in green below.
The village of Kamikatsu is special, not for its tea fields or idyllic mountains or peaceful, historic homes. It’s known for something it doesn’t have. Kamikatsu, as a town, produces almost no trash.
The Trashless Town | A Great Big Story
Kamikatsu has a population of roughly fifteen hundred (1,500) people, and in the 1990s was doing nearly no recycling.
Kamikatsu is a rural area; people used to burn their household garbage at home or dump it in nature. – Akira Sakano, Director of the Zero Waste Academy
Burning all that garbage created carbon dioxide emissions that became dangerous, and the nature around them was suffering. So, a decision was made; Kamikatsu had to change. This was the start to their path toward zero waste and a new way of living.
The concept of zero waste started in 2003 when the town created the Zero Waste Declaration.
Effectively what Zero Waste here means is that there’s no such thing as throwing something in the trash. Everything has to get recycled. And in the beginning it was difficult…for everyone.
Like Mr. Takuya Takeichi (Manager of Takeichi Market). He’s a shop owner in Kamikatsu.
When the zero waste program started, it created more burden in my life. It’s a time-consuming obligation to separate all that garbage.
And Mrs. Hachie Katayama. She’s a housewife.
In the past, I didn’t have to think about whether it was plastic, burnable garbage or anything; I just burned it in the yard. Then, things changed and the classification system was introduced. It was confusing.
That classification system she’s talking about is the key to Kamikatsu’s success, and it is aggressive! There are forty-five (45) categories of recyclables.
Aluminum cans, steel cans, spray cans, metal caps, clothes, wooden products, fluorescent lights.
The list, it goes on. There’s thirty-five (35) more. Slowly, what was originally this huge burden became a way of life in Kamikatsu. People began looking at trash differently.
I gained a sense of taking care of things. When I buy stocks, I only get them in cardboard boxes. We can reuse the clean cardboard to pack products, and so on.
Taira Omotehara, Chef – Until I came here, I was not mindful about garbage at all. I just threw everything out together. The leftover food here goes into compost, and that becomes fertilizer for the local farm, which grows the vegetables that we use here in the restaurant. Seeing that circle helped change how I looked at things.
It’s important to recognize that Kamikatsu is a small town. It is not like New York or London. The rules are not the same, but there is a constant, and that’s people. They can change.
Sakano: Zero Waste Facility, this is Sakano. As is often the case with social problems, we are powerless to effect change if we begin by saying it can’t be solved. By changing your mindset, the network of people involved grows and so does the movement.
Omotehara: After moving here and getting to understand the zero waste concept, after participating in it myself, I really do feel like it is an important thing in my life. If chefs changed their mindset a little, the amount of food waste would be reduced, I think.
Takeichi: It’s strange but simple, I am constantly thinking now before I trash anything. [This program] nurtured a sense of caring for things. We may have more of a burden, but I think that we all gained richness in our minds.