Reduce / Reuse / Recycle

March 24, 2005


Waste Recycling Promotes Community Revitalization

Keywords: Civil Society / Local Issues NGO / Citizen Reduce / Reuse / Recycle 

An association of merchants in Waseda, a neighborhood in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, has scored a great success in collecting empty cans and plastic bottles, an effort that is also contributing to revitalization of the neighborhood shopping district. Like other merchants' associations across the country, the Waseda association has been struggling in the face of competition from large chain stores. What triggered the change was an event called "eco-summer" they held in 1996.

During this event, a reverse vending machine that collected empty cans and plastic bottles became very popular. Putting an empty can or a plastic bottle into a slot starts a game on a screen. If you play and win the game, you get a "lucky ticket" that can be used only in the Waseda shopping district.

Hoping to get something for empty cans found on the street, and for the fun of winning lucky tickets that range from half-price coupons for tofu to free dental checkup tickets and free hotel coupons, people formed a long line in front of the collecting machine. Discarded empty cans and plastic bottles disappeared overnight from the whole area. Meanwhile, over 75 percent of the distributed tickets were used in local stores, bringing more business to members of the association.

After the event the reverse vending machine was installed permanently at an "eco-station" set up in a vacant store. The machine collects an average of 10,000 empty cans a month, and has become an important factor in maintaining lively businesses in the area. This unique recycling system has prompted cooperation among the government, a nearby university and the merchants' association. Merchants' associations in other parts of the country have also introduced reverse vending machines in view of Waseda's success. A network among these associations has been created, which is also evolving into a system for mutual help in case of earthquake disasters.

Posted: 2005/03/24 05:17:46 PM
Japanese version