Japanese turn away from incineration. First-ever Zero Waste Declaration in Japan

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): During the last UMNO general assembly, outgoing PM Dato Seri Mahathir Mohamad criticised Malaysians who say no to incinerators. He argued that even Japanese who are much more well to do than Malaysians could accept incineration as a method to treat solid waste.

But the truth of the matter is that more and more Japanese now realised that the incinerators all over their country are ruining their lives quietly and steadily. They started to put a stop to new incinerators and at the same time decided to dismantle the old ones. Japanese have also started to embark on better and safer alternatives for the treatment of solid waste.

Last weekend, Manny C. Calonzo from the GAIA Secretariat, PHILIPPINES reported that Kamikatsu town in Tokushima prefecture adopts policy aiming for Zero Waste by 2020 without incineration or landfills.

On 19 September 2003, the town council of Kamikatsu, located in Tokushima prefecture in the south-western island of Shikoku in Japan, renounced Japan's continuing reliance on dirty technologies to deal with its waste problems by adopting the country's first-ever Zero-Waste Declaration, which aims to eliminate the need for incinerators and landfills and move the town's communities towards safe and sustainable discard management systems.

Called the "Kamikatsu Town Zero Waste Declaration," the policy states that "to bequeath clean air, palatable water, and fertile earth for the children of posterity, the town of Kamikatsu shall abrogate waste incineration and landfills by the year 2020 to achieve zero waste."

This is a victory for waste activists in what is considered to be the incinerator capital of the world. Japan operates the most number of waste incinerators than any other country in the world today. It also holds the dubious distinction of having the highest levels of dioxins in the environment, likely consequence of the government's mindless burning policies.

In adopting the policy, Kamikatsu embraces the Zero Waste approach which is already accepted practice in many cities and municipalities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and even in developing countries.

Zero Waste seeks to eliminate waste, reduce the quantities and toxicity of materials used, and promote the reuse, recycling or composting of discarded materials.

The mayor of Kamikatsu stressed the importance of the Declaration, saying that with it, "Kamikatsu hopes to send the message that Japan needs to move away from its continuing addiction to expensive and polluting technologies which is leaving behind a wasteful and toxic legacy for future generations."

"Kamikatsu's Zero Waste Declaration represents hope and renewal for every community fighting incinerators and other dirty technologies in Japan and elsewhere. It is important that any declaration aiming to achieve zero waste carry a clear deadline like Kamikatsu's 2020 vision.  The deadline ensures that laws and ordinances which obligate manufacturers to be responsible for the recovery of their products, coupled with improvements in existing recycling systems, would be implemented to maximum effect," said Greenpeace Japan's toxic campaigner Junichi Sato.

Greenpeace Japan and the world-renowned expert on waste incineration and zero waste Dr. Paul Connett of St. Lawrence University have together toured Japan since July asking large and small municipalities to adopt zero waste policies. Dr. Connett was in Kamikatsu last July where he gave a lecture on zero waste to town residents.  

Informed about the Kamikatsu Declaration, Dr. Connett commented that "the decision is the first prescription to Japan's"mad burn-disease. When I visited the town of Kamikatsu this summer, I was very impressed by the responsible efforts made by the town citizens and the mayor," he added.

Von Hernandez of Greenpeace International said that the "Japanese government should follow Kamikatsu's lead instead of building more burners and exporting them to its neighboring countries in Asia. In Southeast Asia, there is already growing resistance to these Japanese dirty technology transfer schemes which are often masquerading as aid packages."

Malaysian government should now changes its mind on incineration, now that even the Japanese are adopting the zero waste management method. Say no to incinerators before it is too late.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP national publicity secretary and DAP Selangor chairman