SETTSU, Osaka Pref. — Not a few people would agree that modern art is garbage.

Yasuyoshi Inoue finds beauty in the discarded.

But Yasuyoshi Inoue, a public servant who works for the Settsu Municipal Environmental Department, argues that modern garbage is, or can be, art.

That’s because Inoue’s hobby is turning discarded plastic bottles and other trash into art and craft objects ranging from flowers to clocks. In the process, he has discovered that they make great visual aids to teach people the importance of recycling.

Presenting a business card made from recycled plastic, Inoue greets visitors in a room at the Settsu City Environmental Center filled with plastic plant holders and other items he made from old plastic bottles.

“I’ve always had an interest in repairing things and creating something new out of something old. All it takes is a little imagination,” he said.

Born in Shikoku, Inoue developed an interest in reusing trash early on, when he would repair bicycles that people had thrown away. In 1977, after the business he worked for folded, he moved to the Kansai region, took the civil service examination, and became a public servant.

“I had a negative image of civil servants. I thought they were lazy and irresponsible people who couldn’t think practically,” he recalled.

Throughout the next decade, Inoue saw firsthand that Japanese consumed a lot, but also threw away a lot that he felt could, and should, be reused.

In 1991, Inoue, who by then was working in the city’s environmental center, organized a fair that emphasized the importance of recycling plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The fair featured trash that he had turned into art and ordinary household objects, such as ashtrays. At the time, the concept of making art of throwaway bottles was quite new, Inoue said.

“Rather than just lectures, ordinary people could see the possibilities of recycling. It helped make it fun,” Inoue said.

His efforts started to pay off, with requests for him to speak and give demonstrations of his skills received from around the country.

Last year, he published a book that showed, in simple picture form, how to make art and ordinary household objects from trash. The book, titled “Recycle Idea Land,” shows how to make nine different things from old cans and plastic bottles, including tissue boxes, plant holders and ash trays.

Although Inoue’s seminars are designed to promote individual awareness of the importance of reusing and recycling, he is involved in other grassroots organizations that are attempting to raise collective awareness. In 1994, Inoue helped found Japan Eco Net, a nationwide group of municipal waste management employees.

“I realized that, at an administrative level, laws and regulations concerning recycling are not uniform throughout Japan. Some prefectures, like Shizuoka, have fairly strict recycling laws, while others, like Osaka, are way behind. Japan Eco Net was formed so that officials in various local governments could exchange information,’ Inoue said.

Educational efforts by Inoue and Japan Eco Net have not been directed solely toward consumers or government bureaucrats.

“Some of our suggestions for changing bottle and can designs to make them easier to reuse and recycle have been adopted by manufacturers,” Inoue said.

In the future, Inoue plans to continue working for Settsu city, while making visits to other municipalities to promote recycling and his work with Japan Eco Net.

“Over the past 10 years or so, there has been a slow growth in the awareness of how important it is to recycle and reuse. But environmental and recycling laws need to be toughened up, and, although some education happens in public schools, more is needed.”

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