Sip Tripper

Japan’s First Zero-Waste Community

The town of Kamikatsu rises, expands out of necessity

A model of sustainability may be found in Kamikatsu, a rural town of about 2,000 people in the forested mountains of Japan's Shikoku island—and is considered Japan’s first Zero Waste landmark achievement.

This remote town on Shikoku Island took a radical approach simply by asking the right questions when it comes to reusing and repurposing resources. Today, the island recycles over 80 percent of what is used, far exceeding the country’s national average of 20 percent.

These practices converge at a hub known as the Kamikats Zero Waste Center. The center is located in the breathtaking mountainside of Tokushima Prefecture. What prompted the need to achieve zero waste status were strong emissions laws enforced back in the year 2000, which caused the closure of two waste incinerators. These closings left the region with a lack of funding and no way to replace them. So, residents either left or decided to stay. The ones who stayed banded together to form a strong bond and unbreakable commitment to sustainable efforts.

How does it work?

Locals separate their waste into 45 distinct categories while volunteers onsite process it all. Assistance is provided to those who need additional help interpreting items from plastics to metals to paper to clothing. What cannot be recycled easily is “gifted” at a direct-to-consumer shop, which is more of a depository for items to be left, complimentary, for others to use.

The efforts continue in an evolution of multiple genres, including the Hotel WHY, named the world’s first zero-waste hotel. Guests here are able to get close access to the environmentally-friendly practices as they bask in natural surroundings. They can pause for a coffee at the nearby zero-waste Café Polestar until it’s time for a stronger libation. Locals and visitors alike can hit up the Rise & Win Brewing Company (pictured, courtesy of Setouchifinder + Rise & Win Brewery), where craft beer is brewed in an environmentally conscious way. All ingredients are utilized, such as discarded rinds from a local plant, to “bring your own bottle” concepts to eliminate waste, leading to a team outfitted with clothing created from recycled items.