Environment: Tokyo wants to become a waste-free city

International 22 July, 2022

Tokyo is the largest waste generator in Asia. This is hardly surprising in a country that threw away eight million tons of plastic in 2020. The problems of pollution and automobile traffic are vividly described in the work «Energy and material flows of Megacities», Christopher A. Kennedy et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, No. 112/19, 2015.

In fact, Tokyoites are proportionally relatively modest polluters, as they live in the largest agglomeration in the world. In 2021, each person threw out an average of «only» 0.73 kg of garbage per day. At first glance, the threat that waste poses to economic growth is inevitable. One has only to think of the mountains of garbage piling up in Bombay or New Delhi as proof – and metaphor — of how garbage is clogging up and slowing down the economy.

On the contrary, Tokyo’s approach to waste management can be symbolized by a completely new waste disposal site created in Tokyo Bay, a new burial site on the surface of the sea, a carefully constructed complex where waste from twenty-three counties is collected, processed and turned into ashes. The city boasts a respectable recycling rate of 20.8%, which is almost twice as much as in Malaysia.

Faced with the huge amount of waste produced by the Japanese population, the government has stepped up its recycling efforts. Businesses that have thrown away more than 5 tons of plastic items divided into twelve categories, including hangers, brushes and cutlery, will have to reduce their use between 2021 and 2022.

This campaign will initially focus on markets, restaurants and hotels, but small businesses are encouraged to follow suit. These guidelines have been implemented by municipal authorities since April 2022. Being at the forefront of the country’s economy, politics and culture, Tokyo already wants to be a champion of sustainable development and hopes to become a zero-waste city in the future.