First broadcast November 2005
One Planet presents a major four-part series exploring a world without waste. We will visit four countries working hard to achieve the much-heralded goal of 'zero waste'.
Achieving 'zero waste', or coming even close to it, is an ambitious concept that attempts to reduce garbage and increase recycling rates whilst at the same time, encourage societies to adopt more ecologically sustainable practices which produce less waste to begin with.
Part Three: Japan
Until recently Japan basically had one solution to waste: burn it. With little landfill capacity, the country turned to incineration after World War II and has never looked back.
Today, 78 % of solid waste is burnt - and in many parts of Japan, that rises to 90 %.
Aside from the well-documented health risks that incinerators pose from such pollutants as dioxins (tiny amounts of which have been linked to cancer), there seems on the face of it to be nothing that can stop the march of these hungry beasts.
Central government subsidises the construction of new incinerators at a cost of billions of Yen.
And this means that despite growing awareness of environmental issues, incineration, waste and recycling rates have all remained steady for a decade. It's not all bad news though.
As the programme discovers, a few local politicians and their communities are trying to show that waste reduction and composting programmes can greatly reduce the country's reliance on incineration, saving the planet but still fuelling the local economy.
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