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[ISHES Newsletter #8]One Community's Challenge to Become a Zero Waste Town -- Kamikatsu, Tokushima Pref.

2019/03/25 16:09:08


ISHES Newsletter #8
March 25, 2019

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Copyright (c) 2019

Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society, Japan


Dear Readers,

We are happy to release our eighth issue of the ISHES Newsletter! We hope you enjoy reading our articles from Japan related to happiness, economy and society.
In this March 2019 issue, you will find the following articles:

- One Community's Challenge to Become a Zero Waste Town -- Kamikatsu, Tokushima Pref.

Waste is a problem that is attracting a lot of attention around the world. The efforts of one small town with a population of just 1,500 residents offer hints of solutions and attract many observers to see what they are doing. In this issue we introduce the activities of Kamikatsu aiming to achieve Zero Waste.

- New articles from the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom

This time we provide an article from an article from a research note by Junko Edahiro, entitled "Philosophers Who Created Japan: Shosan Suzuki" has been uploaded on the web.

- Recommended articles from the JFS Newsletter on sustainability issues in Japan

Eight years have passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Here we reprint a report of a visit to offer assistance on the frontlines just two months after the disaster.


One Community's Challenge to Become a Zero Waste Town -- Kamikatsu, Tokushima Pref.


Kamikatsu, a small town in the central part of Tokushima Prefecture on Japan's southwestern island of Shikoku, with a population of about 1,500, announced Japan's first "Zero Waste Declaration" on September 19, 2003, and is working to achieve this huge challenge.

"Zero Waste Declaration"

In order to pass on clean air, good water and an abundant planet to the children of the future, we commit ourselves to reduce the volume of waste in Kamikatsu to zero by 2020, and hereby proclaim our Zero Waste Declaration.
1. We will educate people not to pollute the Earth.
2. We will promote waste reuse and recycling, and eliminate incineration and landfilling by 2020.
3. We will build a worldwide network for a better environment.

More than 1,000 visitors from Japan and overseas visit Kamikatsu every year to directly see the efforts related to the Zero Waste Declaration. Why do so many people visit? Because the town's efforts represent a breakthrough approach to address the waste problem that must be tackled worldwide.

Improved Recycling Rates

Kamikatsu's efforts started long before its Zero Waste Declaration. In 1994 the town formulated a "recycling town plan" to significantly improve the recycling rate. At that time, kitchen waste was the largest category of waste, accounting for 30% by weight. The town started to deal with kitchen waste reduction and in 1995 became the first municipality in Japan to subsidize household composters. All kitchen waste generated by each household in the town is now processed at home.

The next initiative was to develop a flow of waste recycling. The national government's enactment of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Act in 1997 was the trigger for these efforts. Town staff identified recycling contractors, and the town started collecting recyclables by sorting waste into nine categories. As a result of the town's continued efforts to find new recyclers, recycling collection increased to 45 types of items in 13 categories in 2015.

Residents bring their own pre-sorted waste to the Hibigaya Waste Station. If they are not sure how to sort the items, staff are ready to give support. Many residents enjoy the conversation with the staff as well as interactions with other residents. The sales of valuable resources recovered by recycling bring in a profit of 2.5 to 3 million yen (about US$18,000 to US$27,000*) annually, helping to reduce the town's waste disposal costs. Boxes of each category are labeled with the unit prices paid by recyclers, so residents can see the benefits of their actions. With these ideas, the habit of recycling has gradually taken root in the residents' lifestyles.

Going from Recycling to Reuse and Reduce

The recycling rate of non-industrial waste in Kamikatsu reached 81% in FY2016, which is significantly higher than Japan's national average (only about 20%). This progress has been promoted even further by a local non-profit organization, the Zero Waste Academy, which says that "reuse" and "reduce" are necessary to realize zero waste. Since its establishment in 2005, the group has taken action with the residents and the local government office on the basis of the Kamikatsu Zero Waste Declaration.

Although the recycling rate increased to 81% by thorough promotion of recycling, further increases were hard to achieve. Most of the remaining waste, accounting for 19%, had to be incinerated because the recycling technology for these items was not sufficiently developed or facilities were expensive. Disposable diapers accounted for 20% of this waste.

Kamikatsu launched a program in 2017 to give "cloth diaper starter kits" to households with infants under one year old, with help from the Zero Waste Academy for planning and coordination. Disposable diapers have to be incinerated after use, but cloth diapers are reusable after washing.

To cover the costs of the cloth diaper kits, the town used the profits earned from resource recycling. This way, money generated by the grassroots efforts of residents is being used for new challenges that need other grassroots efforts.

A Kuru-Kuru Re-use Shop was launched to accept unused daily items and then give them away for free. It too is contributing to waste reduction. Only local residents can bring in items, but anyone from town or out of town can take the items home. Each year, about 15 tons of resources pass through the shop, going from people who no longer need them to people who need them.

Another unique program is planning and support for "Zero Waste Weddings." Wedding organizers implement ideas to reduce waste, such as renting reusable cups and plates to avoid the use of disposables, setting up a collection hub for waste, giving instructions on how to sort waste, and producing decorations by remaking used cloth. As an example, more than 200 guests came to one wedding party, and the waste actually generated was only a couple of recyclable items.

Accreditation System Builds Support for Zero Waste

The efforts by Kamikatsu described so far in this article are advanced by changes to residents' own behavior in daily life in order to reduce waste. But to achieve zero waste, this approach alone is not enough. It is also necessary to block the routes of waste entering from other towns and to eliminate the sources of waste. This is an even bigger challenge for the town because it requires efforts by manufacturers that produce and businesses that sell large volumes of products that might become waste.

The Zero Waste Accreditation System, which officially certifies establishments that work on achieving zero waste according to the Zero Waste Academy's own standards, is one initiative to approach such businesses.

Each establishment is required to meet the following three conditions:
- Every employee receives a training on Zero Waste.
- The establishment works on proper sorting and recycling according to the municipality's rules.
- The establishment works systematically on Zero Waste by setting goals.

An establishment that passes those conditions is then audited based on the following six criteria.

Making use of local produce, trying to achieve local production for local consumption, and working to reduce the generation of waste
Example: By purchasing products directly from local farmers, purchasers can avoid using containers and packaging.

Working on reducing waste generation when procuring food ingredients and materials
Example: Purchasers bring their own containers or coolers to reduce the volume of container waste during purchasing.

Using creative ideas to reduce waste generation in complimentary services such as providing wet towels to clean hands before eating Example: The establishments avoid using disposable items by reusing wet towels or using a sugar cube pot instead of sugar sticks made of paper or plastic.

Making efforts to encourage users or consumers to reduce or sort out waste
Example: The establishments announce their involvement in Zero Waste to consumers, and have a mechanism of easy participation.

BYO (Bring Your Own)
Introducing and announcing a mechanism that leads to reducing waste generation by consumers bringing their own tableware and containers Example: Consumers can take out coffee at a discount if they use their own bottles or containers.

Working within the region to reduce waste generation and resource circulation through recycling
Example: The establishments utilize local resources such as old houses and fixtures which otherwise would become waste if not used, and utilize them in their stores.

The accreditation system is expanding beyond the town. In addition to seven stores in Kamikatsu, restaurants in the prefectures of Nagasaki, Kochi and Osaka had also obtained the accreditation as of February 2019. When retailers change their procurement practices, they can have an influence on their suppliers and producers. The topic of accreditation can also lead to conversations that change consumer awareness and behavior. The Zero Waste Academy continues to accept new applications from retailers, in the hope of increasing the number of accredited stores nationwide and expanding the circle of efforts to realize zero waste.


Sixteen years after making the Zero Waste Declaration, Kamikatsu is continuing with its efforts to have zero waste actions take root in the daily lives of residents, to get producers and businesses involved too, and to expand the circle of supporters practicing zero waste. It will be fascinating to watch how the town of Kamikatsu moves ahead and approaches its challenges for the target year of 2020.

*1 USD = 111 JPY


New articles from the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom


In this section we introduce the latest articles posted on the website of the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom.

This time we introduce an article from a research note by Junko Edahiro, entitled "Philosophers Who Created Japan: Shosan Suzuki". Is there an "invisible principle" at work in Japanese society, entirely unrelated to economics and business theory? We hope you enjoy reading.

Philosophers Who Created Japan: Shosan Suzuki

Recommended articles from the JFS Newsletter on sustainability issues in Japan


In this regular section in each issue of the ISHES Newsletter, we recommend past articles from Japan for Sustainability newsletters. The non-profit JFS was active from August 2002 until July 2018, sending out information to the world with the aim of moving society in Japan and the world toward being more sustainable and happy.

Eight years have passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku District of Japan of March 11, 2011. In this issue we revisit an article written two months after the disaster, based on observations made when travelling to one of the worst-hit areas, Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, to offer assistance. What are your impressions today as you read this article?

Coexisting with Nature: Reflections after the Devastating 2011 Earthquake in Japan

We hope you enjoyed reading out newsletter. Thank you for your kind support.

"Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society

*The Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES) is an organization based in Japan that is working to build a happy and sustainable society. To this end, we need to think about happiness, economy and society together by learning from, analyzing, and thinking about theories and cases in Japan and around the world regarding what happiness is and what kind of economy and society will create and support happiness.

The Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society newsletter is a free monthly newsletter to keep you up to date with the latest information. ISHES bears no liability for the newsletter's contents or use of the information provided.

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