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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kyoto Introduces Fees for Trash Collection


Trash just got expensive in Kyoto. Starting on October 1st, the ancient capital and host of the 1997 United Nations conference on climate, garbage must be placed in official yellow bags for pick-up; all other bags will be left uncollected. The new bags are sold at convenience stores and supermarkets in different sizes in prices ranging from 5 to 45 yen (4-40 US cents), and are listed in three languages: English, Korean, and Chinese. In spite of some opposition, the city has gone ahead with the move with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

trash-signIn 1997 Kyoto played host to COP3--the Conference of Parties III--a meeting on climate change. In what has since become known as the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries agreed at COP3 to targets for cutting their emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular CO2. (The agreement however was never signed by the United States, which is the world's largest polluter.)

The city is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions, and thus introduced the pay system. In 1990, Kyoto emitted eight million tons of gases that contribute to global warming. In line with the Kyoto Protocol, the city hopes to cut that figure by 10% by 2010.

Complaints from Kyoto residents have focused mainly on the cost of the new bags, what to do with the old bags that are no longer usable, and corruption scandals among city's officials. More than 500 public meetings were held prior to the October implementation--and to allow a lot of venting.

In going to a pay system, Kyoto joins Fukuoka and Kita Kyushu. Other cites in Japan have opted instead to ease collection by separating garbage into different categories. The sign above explains trash pickup at an Ukyo Ward neighborhood, and the city has added a white sticker at the top explaining that the new system goes into effect October 1st.

In addition, the city has given housewives and retirees something to bitch about. At the collection spot in our neighborhood, the general consensus was: honma ni yayakoshi (totally, unnecessarily complicated), mendo kusai (irritating, hard to deal with), and of course shara nai (it can't be helped).

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