Weighing in on waste reduction

Neighborhood finds that scales provide a motivating force

Kyodo

A neighborhood group and a nonprofit organization have found a way to reduce the waste generated in their community by quantifying the amount of garbage thrown away.

In its fourth year, the Koto Eco Community Conference, made up of residents and businesses in the Koto district of Nishinomiya, has achieved the reduction by utilizing garbage trucks equipped with scales and electronic bulletin boards.

“Quantifying the amount of garbage is very effective, and more people are now trying harder on their own to cut down,” said Kuniko Fujita, 67, who heads the committee.

The idea of quantifying the garbage was brought to the committee by a local NPO named Learning and Ecological Activities Foundation for Children, or LEAF, whose members include individuals and businesses working on environmental issues.

Every November and December, the group weighs the collected garbage four times. The electronic bulletin board on each garbage truck displays the amount of waste it has picked up.

The final results are sent to every household over the Internet.

In 2007, the project’s first year, When the project started in 2007, it covered 1,000 households. They managed to reduce their garbage by 4 percent, or 840 kg, compared with the average between January and October.

The next year the same neighborhood cut its waste down by 11 percent compared with the previous 10 months.

The group expanded the project in 2009 to some 15,000 households, covering the entire Koto district. Fujita said they plan to push the project further this year by breaking down the garbage into categories and coming up with ways to reduce each one more effectively.

Masayoshi Ogawa, a member of LEAF, says the key to improving the project is getting local companies to participate and establishing a system in which they benefit.

In fact, Daiei K.K., the waste collection company involved in the project, has already reaped significant benefits.

Daiei used to negotiate garbage-pickup fees with its corporate clients on an individual basis. After taking part in the project it unified the fee based on the amount each threw out.

Since the change, the amount of garbage collected from corporate clients has declined by about 100 tons a month, but Daiei still got a windfall out it. The clients welcomed the fact that Daiei’s new system helped them become aware that reducing garbage reduces their cost, and the company gained 130 new clients in the last three years.

“Contributing to the community and becoming sensitive to the environment are actually key to running a business,” Daiei President Kenichi Kawazawa said.

Currently, LEAF has 63 corporate members. Ogawa said the next goal is to create a system under which the profits that companies gain through contributing to society are circulated back into the community.