All University of California campuses have a goal of Zero Waste by 2020. Similarly, so does a small village in Japan.
Kamikatsu and it’s 1,700 residents divert 80% of their waste from the landfill, with a goal of diverting 100% by 2020. As of November 2015, UC Santa Cruz diverts 79.15% of waste from the landfill, also with a goal of diverting 100% by 2020. In seemingly two different worlds, both Kamikatsu and UCSC share a common goal for the same reason — protecting their environment and the health of their people.
While we’re both doing great in this race towards Zero Waste, Kamikatsu is recycling “goals” for so many reasons. For one, all residents separate their waste into 34 categories. As if that wasn’t enough, there are no garbage trucks, so they carry the responsibility of personally delivering waste to a collection center. This is asking a lot of the community, and while the idea wasn’t received well when the program began in 2003, it became a habit for them once they considered the obvious benefits.
Before this fairytale recycling journey began, Kamikatsu used an incinerator to burn all of their trash. The residents immediately noticed the adverse health effects for both themselves and the environment (which is stunningly beautiful), and that’s when this program became a necessity.
A unpredicted benefit was the huge savings — costs have been cut to one third of what it was when they were burning waste.
Kamikatsu takes it one step further by communicating with residents what happens to recycled waste (what it turns into, how much it costs, and how much it saves). They also take responsibility, when they can, for reusing waste by “up-cycling” goods through a Kurukuru (circular) shop, where residents can exchange their used items for free. They even have a factory where old clothing like kimonos and fish flags are reinvented into new clothing, made possible by sewing-savvy grannies in town.
Although it’s looking good for us in reaching our goal of Zero Waste by 2020 here at UC Santa Cruz, it’s crucial that we look towards other communities, like Kamikatsu, for inspiration on how to do even better. In Santa Cruz, it’s unclear what happens to our recyclables, which is often the case for highly-populated cities. Informational videos — like these from the City of Santa Cruz — are helpful, but definitely vague. The Resource Recovery Facility “sells materials to commercial markets”, but no further details are provided.
I imagine most residents (including yours truly) would be more inclined to thoroughly sort waste if the details and associated benefits were more readily available. Who knows, we might even be encouraged to separate waste into 34 categories . . . A girl can dream!