Nestled in the mountains of Japan’s picturesque Shikoku region, Kamikatsu isn’t your average small town. Much like Modscape, the rural community has taken an innovative approach to sustainability – one that’s both minimalistic and meticulous, in true Japanese style.
In 2003, the community became the first Japanese municipality to set itself a target of zero waste – an initiative garnering attention both locally and abroad. Since then, the town has embraced the ‘better environments’ ethos, with its residents now recycling more than 80% of their overall waste. The ultimate goal, of course, is to eliminate all of the town’s landfill and incinerated waste completely. To finally achieve this, an innovative hotel dubbed the Zero Waste Center was opened in 2020. But how does a hotel work to reduce waste? Well, guests don’t just check in, they also buy in when it comes to the town’s zero-waste initiatives.
Aside from the hotel, the one-of-a-kind Zero Waste Center is comprised of a garbage collection facility, a learning centre, public hall, and a collaborative laboratory – all working together to broadly promote Kamikatsu’s green approach and change people’s mindsets. Built to enlighten society about the need for zero waste, the facility gives visitors and hotel guests the first-hand experience of sorting trash – a practice the town’s 1500-odd residents have been doing for years.
As the town does not operate its trash collection service, the residents are required to take their garbage to the town’s single waste-collection centre, separating their waste into more than 45 different categories. Meanwhile, all kitchen waste and food scraps at home are composted.
“Why do we buy things? Why do we throw them away? Why do we make things? Why do we sell them? This place gives us the opportunity to think about the many different ‘why’ questions stemming from waste,” explains Otsuka Momona, who manages the Zero Waste Center.
This inquisitive approach is symbolised by the facility’s two buildings, which are aptly shaped like a question mark.
Moving forward, Kamikatsu’s Zero Waste Center is expected to become a global hub for research on zero waste, with its staff working collaboratively with businesses and universities to conduct R&D on 100% recyclable products. If you’re after luxury, the Center probably isn’t the hotel of choice for your long-awaited post-lockdown getaway. However, for us, the town’s efforts have been nothing but a 5-star success.