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The Japanese do garbage better.

The Japanese do garbage better, too

Americans have found a lot to admire in Japan's ability to make products. But the United States also has much to learn about how Japan disposes of its used products and other solid wastes, according to a report by INFORM, a nonprofit research group in New York City. With its small land area, high population density and scarce resources, Japan long ago came to grips with waste disposal problems that the United States is just now facing, say study authors.

They found that while the Japanese put at most 20 percent of their unprocessed household wastes into landfills, Americans dump 90 percent of theirs. And unlike most U.S. dump sites, Japanese dumps use impermeable liners, leachate collectors and waste-water treatment to prevent pollutants from escaping into groundwater. Japan also greatly emphasizes recycling. For example, it recycles 50 percent of its paper, and 95 percent of its beer bottles are reused an average of 20 times. In contrast, 25 percent of U.S. paper and 7 percent of U.S. glass is recycled.

INFORM figures that after recycling, only half as much waste per person is generated in Japan as in the United States. And much of what is not recycled is incinerated in Japanese facilities that produce energy as a by-product. INFORM researchers found that the Japanese also take measures to ensure that the potentially toxic ash is insulated from groundwater, while in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulated the disposal of incinerator ash because it has not decided how to test ash toxicity.

INFORM concludes that much of Japan's success is due to close coordination among national, regional and local governments in collecting disposal data and managing waste -- a situation that does not exist in the United States.
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Title Annotation:waste management
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 2, 1988
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