NEXT time you’re separating garbage into one of the many bins in your house or accommodation, spare a thought for these guys.
Just a Sapporo beer can’s throw from the Hanazono ski fields, this team of hardworking local folk are doing their bit for their country – and the beautiful Hokkaido environment – separating garbage for disposal and recycling.
You’ve probably noticed things are a little (or a lot) different than home when it comes to throwing out your household rubbish. That’s because Kutchan – Niseko’s neighbouring service town – has quite a comprehensive garbage separation and recycling system, when compared to many places around the world anyway.
If you’re feeling confused, you’re not alone. Even those of us who have lived here for many years –including Japanese people – sometimes get confused.
The council tells us that because of the high transient population in Hirafu who don’t understand how things work, the village is causing some problems for the Kutchan garbage separation team… and, in turn, the environment that we all came here to enjoy.
Plus, the ‘gomi’ huts (those cute little green garbage sheds on the side of the road poking out from under big mushrooms of snow, pictured right) are in a state of disarray.
A council spokesperson tells us that while this system might seem ‘confusing and troublesome’, it means the whole town is working together to save the environment.
“Japan is small, so recycling is very important to save and use our limited resources efficiently. Plus, we don’t have big land to bury garbage,” they said.
“We also have to reduce the amount of burnable garbage to lessen carbon dioxide. We know this system can be confusing and troublesome, but this is why we separate garbage.”
The council is so serious about the situation they’ve even come up with a slogan to highlight the issue –
‘Mottainai’ – basically meaning ‘it’s a waste if you just throw your garbage away’.
“What happens if you just throw garbage away? The trash that could be recycled has to be burnt or buried instead,” they said.
“However, if you separate them, they can be reborn as resources.”
So when in Rome – or Niseko – do as they do!