Strict Recycling Law must be Enforced

Final Meeting of the World Commission on Environment and Development — occurred in 1987, which is 30 years ago.

The Address at the closing ceremony of the final meeting of the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Commission) discourse that our consuming pattern is not sustainable, time to take action not only thinking is now (30 years ago), the next few decades, which has already passed, is the key period of challenging to our ability of dealing with environmental issues. I wonder if there was a remarkable improvement in the U.S. since then.

I was a teen in 1987 living in Japan. Since Japan do not have much natural resources, recycling is a normal and very common activity to do. It’s just a part of our life. The regulation of recycling in Japan was much improved since 30 years ago, became more strict. We have a day for plastic collection, for tins, for bottles, for aluminum, and paper is collected by a private company usually every weekend. We have to sort the items out by ourselves before putting the recycles on the street, and wrong items for that day are not collected. As for garbage, each city or prefecture sell their own garbage bags, we have to buy the bag, and the government (garbage collector) do not take a garbage in a wrong bag. Large items such as chairs, beddings, pillows need a fee to be collected (I experienced to pay for $4 to throw one pillow away 4 years ago). This recycle regulation change really made our behavior change as we stopped to buy a lot or unnecessary items because we have to pay when it is not needed anymore; we try to make garbage compact in the bag as much as possible since we do not want to buy extra garbage bags; and, rather than throwing an item away easily, we think one more time before it goes out of the door if it can be used for something at somewhere.

When I came to the U.S. 13 years ago, the world here was completely different from Japan. There was no strict recycle law and people put all garbage including recycles in the very large container, that’s it. People seemed never be bothered by throwing food leftover away with recycling items because they do not want to eat old food or do not want to clean the refrigerator later. The whole house was air conditioned, and people do not pay attention to leaving the door or windows opened having the air conditioner running. I was literally very shocked and upset. Here people are wasting so much energy while I and other Japanese are trying to save a little amount of resource every day. Why do not they feel guilty about wasting food and energy? Even today, I am so tired of hearing people saying “I hate to waste food” and a few minutes later they completely forget what they just said — simply as if nothing is said about food, they take their plate to trash and dump whatever they had on the plate. It is obvious they have no sense of what they said and they really do not care. It sometimes makes me feel like something may be wrong with me since wasting is so normal here.

The Brundtland Commission expressed that “during our public hearings, that the will of the people to make the change is there, in abundance. Now is the time for us to provide leadership.” If this is true, the US must have a strict recycling law, NOW.

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