KAWASAKI CITY, Japan – If there’s anything the Japanese do extremely well, it has to be waste management. The entire nation is built on a model that recycles just about anything which begins with community based recycling. For an industrious and financially sustainable country like Japan, it works quite tunefully, but could Fiji and the larger Pacific adopt a model where recycling goes beyond civic duty?
One of Japan’s leading municipalities may just have the answer. The Kawasaki Municipality’s Assistant Manager for the Waste Disposal Planning Facility Department, Mr. Takao Ito believes their community based recycling model could work outside of Japan “if implemented well”. Speaking to journalists attending the 2017 APIC-FPCJ Pacific-Caribbean Journalists’ Program, he says it requires communal, private sector and government effort to make the initiative sustainable.
Last year, the Fijian government placed a 6% Environmental Levy and only recently, it further introduced a 10-cent levy for the use of plastic bags, all in a bid to reduce waste disposal. While these initiatives are a definite start, community based recycling may offer a holistic approach to waste management, where the process literally “begins at home”.
Residents in Kawasaki City, which is just south of Tokyo, have taken it upon themselves to sort out daily their household refuse into categories like plastic, paper, aluminium cans and kitchen waste. A community effort, the City Mayor appoints volunteer leaders who are recommended by the various neighbourhood associations, to help with the recycling process. In fact, it’s a Japanese cultural “mind-set” instilled in children from a young age to embrace recycling and proper waste management.
Once the residents have sorted out their waste, the Kawasaki Municipality is then responsible for recycling the waste separately into large plastic and paper bails at their Ukishima Incineration Plant, to be remanufactured into products like toilet paper, plant containers, pallets and recycled plastic boards. This is where the private sector comes into play.
JFE Plastic Resource Corporation, a leading eco-friendly company decided to join the recycling program due to the “shortage of landfill capacity”. Director and General Manager Keihin Operations, Mr. Katsunoru Sukuzi says JFE processes 40,000 tonnes of waste plastic annually gathered from Kawasaki and neighbouring areas. The model he says also works for Japan because businesses are charged a “fee for recycling by the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association”, which in turn is paid to recyclers like JFE to enhance recycling and remanufacturing.
This 3-pronged recycling approach involves a community cultural change to waste management, incentives for the private sector and political will by the government to become an innovative solution for garbage disposal and green energy.
With Fiji leading the charge at the global climate change discussions at COP 23 next month, enhancing our recycling efforts at home in a bid to reduce our carbon emissions would send a strong message for a small island developing country on the world stage.
Story & Photos by Rachna Nath.