| Japan gets creative with trash disposal
By Normitisu Onishi
Yokohama: 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.
Kamikatsu, Japan, has 44 categories of trash, and Masaharu Tokimoto,
76, is sometimes baffled by them. But he is still a diligent recycler.
In Yokohama, trash that escapes recycling is put in transparent bags
and loaded into trucks for incineration.
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 correctly.’’
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—someP i valla times 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% 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 incineration.
“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. NYT News Service