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“I want you to see inside this machine,” says chef Shinobu Namae, as he lifts the lid off a stainless steel box the size of a small dishwasher in the kitchen at Bricolage Bread & Co., his new cafe and bakery in Tokyo’s Roppongi neighborhood.

At first glance, the contents resemble the cylindrical plastic beads used to stuff the hard pillows found at budget hotels in Japan, mixed with corn husks and tomato peels — refuse from the restaurant’s morning mise en place. The plastic pellets are drilled with tiny holes containing billions of microbes that break down organic matter into a solution of carbon dioxide and water, which then flows into the city’s sewage system.

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