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[greenyes] Recycling in Japan


May 12, 2005
How Do Japanese Dump Trash? Let Us Count the Myriad Ways
YOKOHAMA, Japan - When this city recently doubled the number of garbage
categories to 10, it handed residents a 27-page booklet on how to sort their
trash. Highlights included detailed instructions on 518 items.

Lipstick goes into burnables; lipstick tubes, "after the contents have been
used up," into "small metals" or plastics. Take out your tape measure before
tossing a kettle: under 12 inches, it goes into small metals, but over that
it goes into bulky refuse.

Socks? If only one, it is burnable; a pair goes into used cloth, though only
if the socks "are not torn, and the left and right sock match." Throw
neckties into used cloth, but only after they have been "washed and dried."

"It was so hard at first," said Sumie Uchiki, 65, whose ward began wrestling
with the 10 categories last October as part of an early trial. "We were just
not used to it. I even needed to wear my reading glasses to sort out things

To Americans struggling with sorting trash into a few categories, Japan may
provide a foretaste of daily life to come. In a national drive to reduce
waste and increase recycling, neighborhoods, office buildings, towns and
megalopolises are raising the number of trash categories - sometimes to
dizzying heights.

Indeed, Yokohama, with 3.5 million people, appears slack compared with
Kamikatsu, a town of 2,200 in the mountains of Shikoku, the smallest of
Japan's four main islands. Not content with the 34 trash categories it
defined four years ago as part of a major push to reduce waste, Kamikatsu
has gradually raised the number to 44.

In Japan, the long-term push to sort and recycle aims to reduce the amount
of garbage that ends up in incinerators. In land-scarce Japan, up to 80
percent of garbage is incinerated, while a similar percentage ends up in
landfills in the United States.

The environmentally friendlier process of sorting and recycling may be more
expensive than dumping, experts say, but it is comparable in cost to

"Sorting trash is not necessarily more expensive than incineration," said
Hideki Kidohshi, a garbage researcher at the Center for the Strategy of
Emergence at the Japan Research Institute. "In Japan, sorting and recycling
will make further progress."

For Yokohama, the goal is to reduce incinerated garbage by 30 percent over
the next five years. But Kamikatsu's goal is even more ambitious:
eliminating garbage by 2020.








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