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The next time you trek out to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, situated on the fringes of Shinagawa along Tokyo Bay, look around and you’ll see a giant smokestack by the Konan Ohashi Bridge. The visa-dispensing center, essential for foreign nationals who want to live in Tokyo, stands right by a garbage factory. However, the Minato Incineration Plant plays a key role in efforts to promote sustainable living in the capital: It houses a state-of-the-art recycling plant.

Every week, thousands of plastic crates are placed along the streets of Tokyo to collect recyclable materials. In offices, supermarkets, train stations and other facilities throughout the capital, recyclable bottles, cans and other materials are meticulously separated and placed in the appropriate receptacles. In Minato Ward, for instance, glass jars and bottles are placed in yellow crates, while cans and tins are deposited in blue crates. Minato crews collect these as well as newspapers, magazines, cartons, cardboard, recyclable plastic and plastic bottles. Everything except paper is trucked down to the Minato Resource Recycle Center, which is located on an artificial island across the Keihin Canal from Shinagawa. Opened in 1999, the three-story building showcases technology that can help reduce the environmental impact of modern consumer lifestyles.

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