The Town without Trash: Kamikatsu, Japan

In this green Japanese town, all household waste is recycled into 34 separate categories.

Cities like San Francisco may have placed a ban on plastic bags in grocery stores and boast of bike-friendly roads, but if you really want to discover the world’s greenest spot, you’ll have to head overseas, to the small town of Kamikatsu, Japan.

In Kamikatsu, there’s no such thing as trash. You won’t find a single garbage bin in any of the town’s homes, and there’s not a dump anywhere within driving distance. Instead, the resourceful residents must compost all waste from their food, and sort other trash into 34 separate categories, with sections for plastic bottles, razor blades, Styrofoam, and various other paraphernalia.

The crazy part? Most locals actually seem to like the extreme recycling process. Kikue Nii, one resident, claims that the town’s no-waste policy makes her more mindful of what she’s using, and helps her to take advantage of every last scrap. “I think I produce less waste because I have to compost it,” she told BBC News.

“When I can’t use the whole vegetable or meat, I try to cook it again with wine and so on. It makes a very good soup. Everyone should have a composter if they can.”

While most of us may not be as ecologically-enlightened as the residents of Kamikatsu, the idea that people on the other side of the world are separating their scraps into 34 categories may at least help you get motivated to recycle your cans and bottles, as a minimum. And if you feel like taking their example, check out Lifehacker’s guide to recycling just about anything to learn how to responsibly ditch all your trash without heading towards the dump.

Check out a video about life in the zero-waste village here.

Originally published July 2008, updated March 2012