June 15, 2005 | General


BioCycle June 2005, Vol. 46, No. 6, p. 66
In smaller Japanese communities, trash sorting options can jump to more than 40, while major cities settle for about 10.

AS PART of a national drive to reduce waste and increase recycling, cities in Japan like Yokohama recently doubled the number of trash sorting categories to 10. New options include small metals, used cloth and much more. Smaller towns – like Kamikatsu (pop. 2,200) in the mountains of Shikoku now have 44 categories. In land scarce Japan, up to 80 percent of garbage is incinerated so the extra sorts are worth the cost.
“Sorting trash is not necessarily more expensive than incineration,” explains Hideki Kidohshi, a garbage researcher at the Center for the Strategy of Emergence at the Japan Research Institute in a New York Times article last month. “In Japan, sorting and recycling will make further progress.”
Yokohama has set a goal to reduce incineration by 30 percent in five years, while Kamikatsu proposes to “eliminate” garbage by 2020 – raising its recycling rate to 80 percent in the last four years. “Each household now has a subsidized garbage disposal unit that recycles raw garbage into compost,” the Times reports.
An informal group of inspectors has been formed in many cities to promote compliance. They drive around their neighborhoods, looking for “missorted trash,” leaving such notes as: “Mr. So-and-So, Your practice of sorting out garbage is wrong. Please correct it.” Meanwhile, cities like Yokohama have given residents a 27-page manual on how to sort trash into proper categories such as: Handkerchief – Goes into used cloth after being “washed and dried;” Frying pan – into small metals, unless bigger than 12 inches which directs it into bulky refuse; and Hair spray can – goes into “spray can” category instead of small metals.
At a 100-family apartment complex, missorting is fairly easy to pinpoint since clear garbage bags with identification numbers are required. Writes the newspaper: “Compliance was perfect – almost.” While not everyone complies, sorting out the trash properly is regarded as proof that one is a grown-up, responsible citizen.
At its single Garbage Station where Kamikatsu residents take their trash, 44 bins collect everything from tofu containers to egg cartons, plastic bottle caps to disposable chopsticks, fluorescent tubes to futons.
Meanwhile, in North America, additional sorts of garbage in places like Nova Scotia are sharply raising per capita diversion rates. Latest statistics show that Nova Scotia disposes 39 percent less waste than the Canadian average, with Halifax having the highest diversion rate of over 60 percent. With source separated organics, recycling and garbage collection, truck routes have almost tripled compared to when there was only single pick up. But there’s a huge savings, increased employment, extended landfill life and marketable value of bioproducts that include sales of compost.

Sign up