Zero waste by 2020: A Small Japanese Village with Big Ambitions

An extreme waste management policy in a small village in Japan means that the community is now sorting its waste into 34 different categories. An incredibly complex system that aims to make all waste recyclable by 2020 is well under way and could be an inspiration to communities around the world.

A local resident hangs her waste out to dry prior to recycling in Kamikatsu, Japan;  Source:

A local resident hangs her waste out to dry prior to recycling in Kamikatsu, Japan;

In Kamikatsu, Japan all waste must be washed and sorted into 34 different categories. There are several different types of plastic, metal, paper and cardboard categories: bottles and their caps go into separate categories and flyers go in a different bin than newspapers to name just a few.

This radical approach started in 2003 when locals where concerned for their health and the environment. Most of the waste was being incinerated and Kamikatsu’s 1700 residents decided to aim high: 100% recycling by 2020.

Currently at 80%, the community is well on its way to meeting the ambitious target.

Changing habits…

To an outsider it may seem strange: waste hanging on a clothesline to dry, inhabitants of taking their household waste to the recycling centre themselves as there is no collection service and an employee checking to see that everything is sorted exactly as prescribed. The villagers admit that it took some getting used to but nowadays it is just part of everyday life.

The extra effort put into recycling also has a positive impact further up the chain. The people of Kamikatsu have become a lot more conscious of what they use and how they use it. All residents compost their kitchen leftovers and many, for example, are inspired to use the compost to grow their own vegetables.

Although critics may argue that the village has taken things too far, Kamikatsu acts as a model for many projects around the world. It has already proven that residents are capable of taking matters into their own hands and making their community a better place.

With only 1700 residents Kamikatsu is obviously working on a smaller scale than most waste collection areas and simply scaling up might not work for big cities. However, it shows not only that we can be pushed to behave better than we might expect of ourselves but also that making us think about what we throw away makes us more environmentally conscious in general.

See the video by Seeker Stories here:


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