Can Norwich learn from the Japanese recycling culture?
PUBLISHED: 10:40 24 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:11 24 March 2019
In light of this year's Lord Mayor's Day theme 'Love the Earth around you', what can we learn from other cultures about looking after the streets around us?
Japanese culture is very trendy right now; we have been enjoying Japanese food for a long time and are now starting to embrace some of their cultures into our own. Netflix’s hit show Tidying up with Marie Kondo has taught viewers how to respect the space around them and focus on items in the home that bring us joy. There has been a sharp increase in charity shop donations since the show launched. We’ve also seen a rise in beach cleans and litter picking groups. It is clear that we want to do better. We want to be cleaner and kinder to our planet.
After visiting Japan, I returned to the UK feeling guilty. I witnessed so many simple differences that had a huge impact on the overall quality of life. For example, there was no rubbish anywhere – no McDonald’s packaging, cigarette butts or chewing gum stuck to the pavements. Upon first arriving I was under the impression that the street we were on must have just been built as it was so spotless.
The truth is recycling has become a massive part of Japanese culture. After the Second World War, Japan struggled immensely with waste disposal and by the 1990s the government imposed strict recycling laws to reduce what could go into landfills.
To this day recycling is part of everyday life in Japan – they recycle 77pc of their plastic, according to the Plastic Waste Management Institute. I have always felt that Norwich was a very clean city but seeing how clean we really could be, I can’t help but wish for more. In Norwich we only recycle 38pc of household waste, according to the Department for Environment, food and rural affairs in 2017. This is actually less than five years previously, so there is definitely room for improvement in Norwich. It can also be noted that there is a distinctive lack of rubbish bins in the streets of Japan. This again is imposed by the government to encourage responsible recycling.
It is common to carry tote bags to place personal rubbish in and dispose of it at home. Smokers carry pocket ashtrays to extinguish a cigarette and hold the butts until you can dispose of it properly. As for chewing gum, the wrapping paper is used to wrap up used gum and then it is placed alongside your other rubbish in your tote bag.
This all might sound ridiculous, but is it? Is it so hard to carry your Boots meal deal rubbish and dispose of it at home or in the office? Is it really so hard to not throw gum or cigarette butts on the ground? Why do we not have the same respect for our streets as we do for our homes? On the same topic, why is it even socially acceptable to throw cigarette butts on the floor – they can take up to 10 years to break down, and we do nothing? Cigarette butts now contain plastic; this is something that has changed, so our attitude to their disposal should change. Cigarette butts continue to be the number one item collected in shoreline cleanups worldwide. The numbers are dramatic.
We are lucky enough to have rubbish bins in our streets and ashtrays on the outsides of buildings or pubs, so let us make use of them. If a rubbish bin is overflowing, use a tote bag to place your rubbish in and dispose of it later.
So let us see what we can do. Norwich has always been a trendsetter, and what’s trendier than loving the space around you?