weighed in order to monitor reuse rate, with an average of 80-90% getting reused. In 2016, around 15 tons of items were brought in and 15 tons taken home.

The Kuru-kuru Craft Center, in the Kamikatsu Care Prevention Center next to the Hibigatani Waste and Resource Station, takes in unwanted fabrics, clothing and carp streamers where they are reworked and remade for sale by craftspeople from the local area. In order to cut down on single-use items for festivals and events, Kuru- kuru tableware can be lent out, with reusable containers, plates and cups available to lend to residents for free. Approximately 8,300 pieces of tableware are lent every year.

damaging waste disposal methods entirely to protect the land, air and water for future generations. Even for a small village, this 17-year project had a very ambitious target to meet.

In the years leading up to the declaration, waste segregation had already been taking place, with more than 30 different categories of recycling already in operation at the local Hibigatani Waste and Resource Station. Non-organic waste is washed at home and brought in to the station and manually segregated by local residents and volunteers, between the hours of 7:30 AM and 2:00 PM each day.

In the years since, more and more recycling initiatives have launched in Kamikatsu, including the establishment of Non-Profit Organisation (NPO), the Zero Waste Academy, in 2005. Nowadays, materials get recycled into new products regularly, local collections have been set up for the elderly and disabled, and volunteer patrols – ‘Gomi (waste) rangers’ – remove illegally dumped garbage from around the village.

Photos: Zero Waste Alliance

Several locations have been opened over the years in order to promote reuse and the remaking of items using recyclable material. The Kuru-kuru shop takes in items like clothing, tableware and ‘sundries’ from Kamikatsu residents, while anyone can take away what they will find useful, all for free. Material is

In 2014, a Recyclable Paper Point campaign began to promote paper segregation and reduce incineration waste. Points cards were distributed to local residents, and they can collect points whenever they bring certain categories of paper waste in. These points can be exchanged for prizes (from toilet paper up to Zippo lighters), while everyone is also entered into a monthly draw for gift vouchers. The scheme was renamed ‘Chiritsumo’ in 2017, and expanded to include more categories of waste – hence the name, which means ‘Small things add up to make a big difference’.

Until 2018, the Zero Waste Academy ran the town’s only waste collection centre, and had increased the number of categories to a staggering 45 segregated waste and resources types across 13 categories. Incineration is kept to an absolute minimum, and only truly unrecoverable items (i.e. feminine hygiene products, disposable diapers, some PVC and rubber) are eliminated.

Understandably, while the Zero Waste objective is a commendable goal, it has been hard work for the village. Much of the criticism and unhappiness stems from the sheer variety of sorting that has to be done and the fact that almost everything has to be washed first. The regularity of the cycle can be quite tough on the ageing population, too.

However, this hasn’t stopped the recycling rate soaring, and in 2016 the municipality achieved an impressive 81% recycle rate. Residents are taking onboard the message to avoid purchasing or using products that may end up as waste, while more manufacturers are producing products that can be easily and safely disposed of in order to cut waste generation at its source.

Even so, it’s clear that while comprehensive, Kamikatsu’s demanding system may eventually be its undoing. With more than 50% of the village’s inhabitants now elderly and the population shrinking year on year, even if it does meet its 2020 goal, it may prove impractical for the village to maintain a 100% rate in the future.

Kamikatsu was the first Japanese location to make a Zero Waste Declaration, but now many other spots have joined in, including Oki town in Mizuma, Fukuoka, Kumamoto’s Minamata City, and Ikaruga Town, Nara. With more towns and cities around the globe now setting their own ambitious targets, this small, mountainside village has been setting recycling standards for years that the rest of the world can only dream of. TOMORROW’S FM | 35

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