Japan Is Moving Towards A Zero Waste Economy

When the global climate and environment is at stake, zero waste management is the biggest and one of the quickest solutions to bring immediate improvements. If cities want to convert in smart cities they definitely need to have zero waste management strategies – at least in the coming years.  

As the name suggests, the zero waste concept uses, recycles, reuses and does not allow things to go into the trash. The so-called waste is turned into a valuable product. Essentially, zero waste management is key to a circular economy.

Hence, along with many other smart cities in the world, the nation of Japan is preparing to become a circular economy with zero waste management at its core. The different initiatives highlighted below reveal the country’s strong vision to transform waste out of best.

A Collaboration To Drive The Circular Chain

Rubicon Global, a smart city waste and recycling company has signed a partnership agreement with Odakyu Group in Japan to enable the country’s waste and recycling system to advance towards a circular economy. Rubicon Global will support the Odakyu Group by deploying its technology solutions in Japan.

Odakyu is a group of transportation, retail and real estate companies that are operating in Japan since 1948. The Group is dedicated to working collaboratively with local Japanese hauliers and industry leaders to solve the local and global waste challenges.

Going as per the agreement, Odakyu Group will launch a pilot programme that will support the Japanese waste and recycling industry to move towards a more integrated circular economy. In the process, Rubicon Global’s technology will help in developing a sustainable environment for all its operating businesses.

In addition, Monitor Deloitte Japan, the multinational strategy consulting practice of Deloitte Consulting in Japan, will serve as a strategic advisor to Odakyu Group in the initiative.

According to Odakyu Group, they regard Rubicon Global as an innovator in the waste and recycling area, which will help them bring their technological expertise to reshape Japan’s economy.

The Group is looking forward to building this relationship with Rubicon in the months to come while recognising the enormous opportunity within Odakyu Group to employ the latest global technologies to help local stakeholders and to become a leading company of circular economy in Japan.

Odakyu Group is going to make this happen (vision of circular economy) by working closely with companies, hauliers, and cities. Besides, they are also looking to solve the challenges that are being faced by Japanese stakeholders.

As far as the mission of Rubicon Global is concerned, it is about bringing the end to waste and to leave a positive footprint across Japan.

Japan Already Has A Town With Zero Waste Strategy

What Is Zero Waste Strategy of Japan?

Kamikatsu, a town located in the Katsuura District of Japan has separate bins for every single kind of waste. They have different bins for paper products including newspapers, cartons, flyers, and magazines. Then they have separate bins for cans that are categorised into spray, aluminum and steel. Moreover, they also have individual bins for plastic bottles and caps. Well, this may sound a bit overwhelming, but these are just a few to name out of 34 categories that the residents of Kamikatsu have to sort their waste into.

The Japanese town with a population of about 1700 is on a mission to become the nation’s first zero-waste community by 2020. Actually, they have now almost reached their vision. According to sources, the town is currently recycling approximately 80% of the waste with just 20% going to landfills.

Kamikatsu began this mission in 2003 when the town discontinued dumping the trash into an open fire with the fear of endangering both the environment and the community.  

As of now, Kamikatsu doesn’t have any garbage trucks. The residents have to wash, sort and carry the trash to the recycling centre. Residents agreed that this took a while for them to get used to it.

At the recycling centre, a worker looks after the sorting process ensuring every kind of waste goes into the right bins. Some of the used items are resold to businesses or repurposed into toys, clothing or accessories.

According to a resident of Kamikatsu, it becomes normal when one gets used to it. Now, it has become a habit to sort the waste according to categories.

While Kamikatsu has received global attention for its ambitious mission, there are similar initiatives being witnessed in places like Berkeley, California (recycling close to 80%), and San Francisco (reached 70%) with a few more US cities.

Furthermore, there is also a town in Italy similar to Kamikatsu that has different separations and drop off. But for most of the part efforts are led by grassroots organisations.

Coming back to Japan, the nations sorting system for waste is among the most comprehensive in the world. Businesses are obligated by law to recycle waste. In fact, Yokohama, Japan ’s second-largest city with a population of 3.7 million has a 27-page manual that guides on how to sort more than 500 different items.  

Tokyo 2020 Olympics On The Zero Waste Management Track

Recently, Japan revealed that all Tokyo 2020 winning athletes’ medals will be made from recycled electronics waste. This will consist of discarded and obsolete electronic devices such as smartphones, digital cameras, laptops and handheld gaming consoles.

This green initiative is directly in line with Recommendation 4 of the Olympic Agenda 2020 that states sustainability should be at the core of all aspects of the planning and execution of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

A nation-wide green initiative was launched in Japan calling Japanese population to donate their obsolete electronic waste. In April 2017, the collection of e-waste began in Japan. This was launched with thousands of collection centres established across the nation.

The municipal authorities of Japan were successful in gathering 47,488 tons of e-waste and over 5 million used cell phones. The target amount of metal required to make the bronze medals was completed by June 2018. Also, 93.7% of gold and 85.4% of silver was gathered by October 2018. Hence, the mission to make all the medal out of recycled electronics is well on track to the finish line. Many athletes who are going to participate in the Olympic Games happening next summer have praised the efforts and the initiatives. Although this is one of the bold initiatives taken up by Japan, there are requirements for the launch of bolder initiatives to prevent used electronics from going into landfill.  

This would actually require the government, manufacturing companies and the community to come together. For example, it may begin from making new laws on waste to emphasising on repairable devices. Or perhaps, it could also go on with something like the research at Rice University exploring possibilities of biodegradable and environment-friendly wooden electronics that can be disposed of and decomposed without any harm.

But, as far as the making of the 2020 Olympic medals is involved, the winning athletes would definitely be proud of earning a medal that has its own sustainable story to inspire along with their stories. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals will be publicly uncovered in the second quarter of 2019.