Tokushima town becomes global draw with zero-waste strategy

Kyodo

A small town in western Japan has been attracting foreign visitors after its efforts to reduce waste to zero by 2020 have become widely known via YouTube.

The documentary video, titled “How This Town Produces No Trash,” with English narration and captions, explains how the town of Kamikatsu in Tokushima Prefecture is sorting and recycling waste by 34 designated categories — which have since increased to 45 — and has its own composting system.

In one scene, a local woman skillfully removes the cap and label from a plastic bottle.

The five-minute video has been viewed about 540,000 times since it was posted by YouTube community Seeker Stories in 2015, and the town has received visits from municipalities and environmental organizations in more than 10 countries between last April and January, according to a public-private venture in the town.

Hor Heang, a 22-year-old student at Cambodia’s Royal University of Law and Economics who visited the town in December, said, “We must follow this lead as the waste problem in Cambodia has grown serious with its economic development.”

The town announced in 2003 that by 2020 it will stop generating waste that needs to be incinerated or buried. It now recycles nearly 80 percent of its waste, sharply higher than the national average of about 20 percent, according to the town.

At Hibigaya waste station, Kamikatsu’s sole waste collection depot, several baskets are in place for collecting steel cans, aluminum cans, brown glass bottles, plastic caps and paper packages, among other items.

The station also hosts a shop where the town’s residents can drop off items they no longer use and take home anything they want for free.

“I will be happy if the Kamikatsu model spreads around the world,” said Akira Sakano, 28, who heads the nonprofit organization Zero Waste Academy, which operates the waste collection site.

“We hope to work toward achieving the town’s goal and spreading the movement to other areas at the same time,” she said.