Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good Garbage Makes Good Neighbors

The WSJ reports (subscription required) about the dilemma that is happening in Tokyo as the rules for what can be burned and what must be sorted out when disposed. Japan being an island country, lacks space and landfill is at a premium. In California when we complain about how much a dump costs, we lament about the state of the house, here they are literally talking about well the dump. So they burn a lot of their garbage, but some things are not allowed to be incinerated like plastics.

It's interesting is that the garbage man can refuse to pick up garbage if it's not been sorted. Additionally, people know who's garbage has been sleighted. Neighbors will even take your garbage and put it in front of your door if you've been lazy. My favorite quote from the story "A person's morality is really tested when it comes to diposal of trash," Ryouichi Sawachi, a maintentance man. The logic being that it degrades a common area, bringing down the value of everyone's place.

To be fair, the rules of garbage sorting both here and in Japan can be rather byzantine. There is something about the immediacy of the problem that brings the issue front and center, that a social stigma can be created. It's interesting to see the problems they've identified and tried to solve. For instance, to make it easier to identify offender bags, they went to clear plastic than the crows started at it seeing the goodies inside.

It's not just in Japan, the change in attitudes toward disposable water is making bottled water a social stigma, starting at high end restaurants. We see this stigmatization in disposable bag consumption (go canvas!) and maybe soon work place paper coffee cups.



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