Waste care plan

ENGAGING children, community volunteers, effective legislation, partnerships with the private sector and committing more than $269 million annually to a waste management plan.

That is how Kawasaki City in Japan, a regional manufacturing hub just south of Tokyo, has managed to not only control waste production, but reduce it in the face of an increasing population of about 1.6 million people.

Kawasaki City was one of the first stops in Japan for a group of five journalists from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

The journalists are on an Association for Promotion of International Cooperation Foreign Press Centre for Journalism (APIC- FPCJ) tour of Japan.

In 2014, the population of Kawasaki had grown to 1.46 million but waste generated per capita per day was down by more than 300 grams from 2003 averages.

Similarly, the amount of incinerated waste had dropped by more than 200,000 tonnes annually between 2003 and 2014, all while Kawasaki experienced steady population growth.

All thanks to an approach that asked all sectors to buy in and do their fair share of heavy lifting.

There are more than 47,000 collection points for various forms of waste including plastic and paper as well as white goods.

The city’s municipal council acts as an intermediary for all waste, performing and in some instances contracting out the duties of collecting waste from homes and non-industrial waste from businesses.

After the waste is separated by the council, it is either incinerated or recycled at one of four municipal recycling facilities or sold to reprocessing subcontractors to be recycled into different products.

These products include toilet paper and materials used in construction.

Prior to collection,volunteer leaders are chosen by the council — 1880 in 2015 — to carry out public awareness on waste reduction in their various communities.

This awareness includes guidance on sorting and taking out waste as well as practical instructions for recycling.

But the Kawasaki waste management plan is not unique in Japan.

There are many prefectures and municipalities that have similar setups.

Kawasaki though has set itself apart by incorporating a teaching facility for children at their waste management centres.

Shuichi Abe the assistant waste manager for the Kawasaki City Public Waste Department, explains that while the national Government provided legislative framework for encouraging recycling, the citizens and the city of Kawasaki deserve some credit as well.

“So the starting point was the national Government providing the law to encourage recycling, and everything started from there,” Mr Abe said.

“But the city itself prepared very unique efforts and one such thing was to enlighten the citizens and the city used a very detailed but simple pamphlet to explain to its citizens about the importance and also the effect of recycling.”

He said the municipal council went into schools and taught students the importance of recycling as well as incorporating the teaching complex into their waste management plan.

“These kinds of teaching sessions prepared elementary schoolchildren to go back to their homes and tell their family members how important recycling is.

“And that sort of helps in spreading the idea of the importance of recycling.

“And also the city encouraged volunteers to join this effort of reducing waste. So it was the all-out efforts of the city and the citizens and together with the private sector as well.”

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