Reaching the Goal of Zero Waste – The Importance of Getting Used to Things

“If you get used to it, it becomes normal. Now I don’t think about it. It’s become natural to separate the trash correctly.”

Have good are you at recycling?

Can you differentiate between different types of plastic?

And do you always thoroughly clean out the bottles?

The Japanese town of Kamikatsu  has a population of around 1,700 works and in this small community everyone is working together towards their zero waste goal. The vision is to become Japan’s first zero waste city by 2020 and the citizens are currently meticulously sorting their waste into 34 different categories.

Where I live, we just throw everything that we can recycle into one bin! Admittedly we can take some of the waste to recycling stations. . . and I have large bags filled with things that somehow seems to have been there for a very long time. . .

At Kamikatsu 20 percent of the town’s waste makes it to the landfills and the rest is creatively recycled.

Earth contamination concept. Litter and dramatic sky
Earth contamination concept. Litter and dramatic sky

Changes do not happen quickly and this town has been working towards its zero-waste ambition after the town gave up the practice of dumping waste into an open fire. The burning of waste had negative and serious consequences for both the environment and the population in the town.

There are no garbage trucks and the residents wash, sort and bring their waste to the recycling centre. This idea took some time for the residents to get used to but today it is part of life. The waste is resold or used to make clothes, toys and accessories.

There are several smaller communities around the world that are actively trying to reduce their waste, and cities such as Berkeley, California is close to 80 percent (in 2013 the population was 116,800). Often the effort are lead by grassroot organisations you can read more about this at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

In  city of Yokohama, with a population of 3.7 million, citizens are given a manual on how to sort 500 different items. Like lipsticks into burnable and the lipstick tubes, into small metals or plastics.  If you have one sock, and who doesn’t,  it also belongs to the burnable pile,  while a matching not torn pair goes into used cloth pile.

A positive attitude to change our lifestyle is vital to make changes. Changes that may not only have implications for the environment, it may also bring residents closer together, like it has at Kamikatsu, where a new way of thinking about waste and life have slowly emerged.