Kamikatsu, a small town located in the Tokushima prefecture of Japan with a population of only 1,401 people, is becoming a prototype for operational concept and management of zero-waste efficiency for big corporates in Thailand.
The small town is well-known for its zero waste and has become one of the world's leading cities with strong waste management and a sustainable living model. It is now a must-visit location for its environmental learning centre.
Recently, management of two major Thai companies, Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Central Group, which have clear roadmaps of waste management policy, visited Kamikatsu's zero-waste centre to learn the concept and mission of efficient waste management processes.
Nonoyama Satoshi, chief executive of Pangaea LLC, a private firm that operates the learning centre for Kamikatsu's zero-waste operation, said zero waste means the elimination of waste and garbage that doesn't mean treating garbage, but rather a way of thinking about not creating garbage in the first place.
Mr Satoshi talks about sorting plastic bottles.
Talking during a recent meeting with the AIS and Central Group management, Mr Satoshi said Kamikatsu is a town located in Tokushima prefecture, Shikoku island, with a population of 1,401 people and 737 households, with elderly people making up 52.2% of them as of October, 2023.
The small town has an area of 109.63 square kilometres and is around 100-700 metres above sea level.
Kamikatsu implements thorough recycling initiatives to achieve a zero-waste society by communicating this philosophy and initiatives with the aim of increasing the percentage of like-minded people in the society.
Since the town's Zero Waste Declaration in 2003, all individual residents have worked together to reduce waste, and have achieved a recycling rate of more than 80%. The major challenge for a small village has attracted global attention and paved the way for a sustainable society.
The town launched the Zero Waste Academy in 2005, followed by the reuse promotion centre Kurukuru Shop, opening in 2006, and the remake shop Kurukuru Kobo in 2007.
In 2013, it began the Chiritsumo Point Campaign, a system for accruing points by sorting miscellaneous paper and converting it into daily necessities.
In 2016, it changed the official number of sorting types from 34 to 13 types under 45 categories, and achieved a recycling rate above 80% for the first time.
"Our goal is to develop a town with abundant natural beauty and make it a place where everyone feels happy and can fulfil their respective dreams," said Mr Satoshi.
For the zero-waste centre, Mr Satoshi said it was established in April 2020 as a centre for zero waste where residents bring and separate their own garbage. By outfitting it with new shared offices and accommodation, its goal is to create a facility for interaction among individuals with a desire to learn about zero waste.
Mr Satoshi said Kamikatsu once again declared a zero-waste policy with a key target of "Thinking about the future of the living environment for our children as one's own responsibility and fostering people who can take action" until 2030.
He added that people in the city are responsible for bringing their unwanted things or garbage to the zero-waste centre for sorting them into categories and without getting any benefit or money in return.
There are no trucks for transporting garbage from households to the centre, except the volunteer group Recycle Kamikatsu that assists the elderly in transporting the garbage to the centre.
Kamikatsu's zero waste centre, which is operated by the local prefecture, will manage and sort the garbage and recycle it via outside channels. All cost management of the garbage sorting and recycling process is between 4 and 5 million yen per year, while benefits from recycling to the prefecture is between 800,000 and 2 million yen per year.
"Kamikatsu's zero-waste model has been adopted by other five cities in Japan. We'll join with many peers globally to improve the global environment," Mr Satoshi said.
Kamikatsu hopes to achieve a recycling rate of around 100% in the town over the next two decades.
In Thailand, AIS and Central Group have joined forces in fulfilling obligations to improve the environment and create a model of correct waste disposal for all categories of waste.
The collaboration between the tech giant and the retail leader aims to encourage every sector to engage in 100% correct waste disposal.
ZERO E-WASTE HUB
AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong said Kamikatsu's zero-waste centre shows waste can be sorted into 45 categories on the basic principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, making it the ultimate international prototype of a waste-free society.
AIS's environmental policy has two pillars: reducing the impact from business operations and reducing and recycling waste from operations; and encouraging the Thai public to dispose of their e-waste correctly.
The advent of digital products has resulted in increased e-waste, which has become a global problem. AIS has also upscaled its programme -- Thais say No to E-Waste -- with the aim of creating awareness of the burgeoning problem of electronic waste.
Mr Satoshi describes the functions of a bio-waste composting bin.
AIS has been cooperating with Central Group since 2020 to offer channels for e-waste drop-off which are more convenient for the public. The drop off points included 37 shopping malls under Central Group located all over the country, as well as 40 outlets of Power Buy.
Disposal has also been conducted through the application e-Waste Plus, which connects 190 organisations to turn AIS into the first intelligent e-waste hub in Thailand.
"We have the know-how and the network to help out in exchanging ideas, to expand e-waste drop-off points which now cover mass transit, and to support a recycling process of zero e-waste to landfill," Mr Somchai said.
NET ZERO TARGET BY 2050
"Sustainable treatment of waste must derive from ourselves and how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis," said Pichai Chirathivat, executive director of Central Group.
Mr Pichai said that for this sustainable treatment of waste to be successful, there must be cooperation among every sector, and that is why Central Group and AIS have been in a long-term partnership in this arena.
This current collaboration is an extension of Central Group's Correct E-Waste Disposal Programme, in which the group has endeavoured to fulfil its commitment to improve quality of life through its Central Tham programme.
Central Group's sustainability programme has six drivers of sustainability, ranging from Community & Social Contribution to Climate Action.
"We're taking action to reduce the sources of waste in our campaign -- Journey to Zero -- to achieve our Net Zero target by 2050," Mr Pichai said.