Japan’s Kamikatsu: The first zero waste town?


In 2003, the Japanese town of Kamikatsu declared its Zero Waste Ambition. Since then the residents of Kamikatsu have adopted arguably the most rigorous recycling programme in the world. In 2016 this rural community is well under way to eliminating 100 per cent of its waste.

The picturesque mountain town of Kamikatsu is the smallest on Shikoku Island. In the 1990s the townspeople began to notice that it had an increasing waste problem. Once, the townspeople burned rubbish outside or dumped it on farms – something that was never a problem when all of the waste was organic.

As trends in consumption moved towards more packaged goods and non biodegradable plastics the old system would no longer work. Burning the items also began to raise health concerns due to the release of powerful toxins.

It was then that the focus turned on recycling and the ‘Zero waste’ initiative was put into motion, a movement focused on creating a sustainable lifestyle, with no need for incineration or landfill.  The town started with nine categories of waste separation; by 2002 the number of categories grew to 34.

Today you will find no rubbish trucks in Kamikatsu. People take their waste to a town collection centre and separate it into the various categories themselves. Each space or box is labelled to show where it will be recycled, what it will become and how much it will cost.

As of the beginning of 2015, Kamikatsu has been achieving a recycling rate of almost 80 per cent. In 2015, the people of Kamikatsu created a roadmap for achieving zero waste by 2020. What is also significant is that all organic waste is managed within each household and 100 per cent recycled.

Take a look here to find out more:


Photo Credit: Timothy Takemoto from Flickr.