Japan: The World’s Best Recycling Country

Japan is one of the countries that grab our attention when it comes to effective waste management. The country’s work is remarkable in this field.


Mt. Fuji from Yokohama city, Japan.

Photo Source: http://www.petsprin.com/japan-city-wallpaper-full-hd/

From the total waste generated annually in the country, approximately 50% of the solid waste is recycled. Only 16% of the waste goes to the landfill sites.

Due to very less area of land, Japan started analyzing and working on waste management policies since post world war II. With the implementation of various garbage segregation and recycling policies, Japan is now one of the best recycling countries of the world.

The 3R Strategy

Every individual in Japan generates around 1.1kg of waste every day. To manage more than million tons of garbage, it is first necessary to identify the sources of the waste and try to reduce its generation. The 3R strategy, i.e., Reduce-Reuse-Recycle was introduced by Japan in the year 2000. To implement this policy in an effective way, Japanese government enforced strict rules on segregating waste at source. As a result, there was an overall increase in the amount of reusable and recyclable garbage which eventually led to decreased waste generation.

Segregation of waste

Japan gives clear view of waste segregation and its importance in recycling industries. With more than 20 types of segregation, Japan has the highest productivity by recycling the tons of garbage.


Waste bins at Waseda in Japan.

Photo Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling_in_Japan#/media/File:Recycling_bins_Japan.jpg

The sorting procedure varies from region to region but the general categories of segregating the waste are as follow:

1. Paper

2. Plastic

3. PET(Polyethylene Terephthalate) Bottles

4. Cans

5. Food waste

6. Unbroken Glasses

7. Batteries

The list goes on with different types of waste such as hazardous waste, automobile waste, E-waste and much more.

It seems to be a complex and hectic job. Isn’t it? Though, in reality, it is not that complex. If there are different bins for each type of waste and the waste is stored accordingly, the job is really easy.

Why segregation is an important step?

While facing the scarcity of land for landfill sites, Japan had to search for an alternative solution to manage the huge amount of waste. With a rise in population, there was a large amount of waste generated every day. The huge amount of garbage found a way to water bodies or landfilling. To stop the degradation of natural resources caused due to these methods, Japan imposed certain rules on waste management system. The further study claimed that segregation of waste at source could be the effective measure to reduce, reuse and recycle the garbage.

Waste Treatment

The waste treatment has roles to play for the waste collectors and the generators. The Municipality and Industries are the two responsible factors for managing and collecting waste from their respective generators.


Segregated cans, glass and plastic bottles to be transported for recycling by municipality in Japan.

Photo Source: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/garbage-in-japan/

The Municipality collects the waste from households, restaurants and commercial sectors. After the collection, garbage is sorted into different types of waste and then further sent for recycling or processing for reuse. The waste which can’t be reused or recycled is sent to landfill.

The Industries have to manage their own waste by the same rule of segregation, but the procedure is bit different as the waste generated is highly dangerous to human health. This waste is segregated as per the level of toxicity and explosiveness. This waste is mostly recycled by the industry itself to ensure the safety of environment and public health.

What should we learn from Japan??

Japan has just followed one simple rule for effective waste management that is “Segregating Waste at Source”. The strategy brought a revolution and Japan changed the face of recycling industries.

We too have started to segregate the waste at source and progress towards zero garbage. We need to be consistent in our efforts of handing over segregated garbage to the waste pickers to make our future clean and healthy.

-Filed by Omkar Nikam









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