People collect and segregate waste in Kamikatsu, Japan. (Source: Official website of Zero Waste Academy)

Davos 2019: How Akira Sakano’s Not-For-Profit Is Helping A Japanese Town Become Waste-Free

A Japanese town’s path to a trash-free future has a link to the World Economic Forum.

Akira Sakano, deputy chief officer of the Zero Waste Academy—which is helping Kamikatsu in Japan become a zero-waste town by 2020—is one of the co-chairs of Davos 2019.

Sakano, in a conversation with BloombergQuint, said that waste is all about perspective. Waste can be recovered as a recyclable or can be used as a different product by upcycling or reusing them, she said. “I’m not saying that we never produce any waste from daily life, but as long as it can be used afterward, again and again, I don’t see that as a waste.”

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Akira’s not-for-profit environmental organisation adopted a community-level approach to achieve its zero-waste goals. Kamikatsu, along with the organisation, recycles nearly 80 percent of the waste it generates. She helped the village segregate waste into 45 categories, including detailed ones such as “glass bottle, brown colour”. The town’s community and the organisation are working on to tackling the 20 percent of waste that makes its way to incinerators or landfills.

Global waste generation is expected to touch 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050, according to World Bank, from the present 2.01 billion tonnes.

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“If you segregate where it (waste) goes, and how much it costs or earns the town, it gives people clarity that by segregating, how much money they save as a community and how much resources they can recover.”

She believes in the potential of “how much we can do as a small community can be a big influence for the rest of the world”. “We need to see systemic changes in the society as a whole and how we can design our products to be recovered,” she said, adding everyone from businessmen to policymakers need to be on board.

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