Waste recycling: how to reduce the number of landfills. World experience

How is garbage handled in Japan, the US and other countries? How efficient are incinerator plants? How to give a second life to plastic bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard? How much waste is recycled in Russia? We will consider all these questions in this article.  

The high population density in Japan is due to its small size – more than 126 million people live on 370 thousand square kilometers. And 70% of Japan's territory is made up of mountains, so it would be illogical to waste space on garbage dumps. Moreover, the Japanese have found a way to increase their archipelago at the expense of waste – they have been building islands out of garbage for more than 15 years. 

Waste sorting is mandatory for all residents of the country. Depending on the day of the week, citizens put out a certain type of garbage, which is collected by garbage collection services. «The waste disposal system itself in Tokyo is arranged in such a way that residents have no other way to dispose of garage except for separate it. If unsorted waste is put up on the day of ”burning garbage”, then they simply will not be picked up and a warning sticker will be attached. Failure to follow the rules results in fines. Illegal dumping of garbage is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 10 million yen – more than 37 million tenge».

More than 90% of all plastic bottles in the country are recycled and made into new products – including bottles and new fabrics, for example, for the uniform of Manchester United football players. They try not to add new oil products to the waste turnover. Instead, almost all of the bottles produced in Japan are made from granules from recycled waste.

Tokyo grows on its own garbage. Shredded, non-burning garbage, along with ash from incinerators, serves as material for the construction of artificial island. Every year, about 50,000 tons of recycled garbage is poured into the sea, then a layer of earth is brought to the island, trees are planted, and parks are set up. 

In the US, there is a single-stream system: citizens do not sort recyclable garbage – this is done by special organizations, a link between the ”sources” of garbage and recycling companies chain. But they must separate recyclable garbage from waste with which nothing can be done – separate food waste from others, put garbage in several types of bins and put them out on certain days, throw clothes and shoes into special containers in the city. You can get money from automated collection points for turning in aluminum cans and plastic bottles on your own.

Sorting of recyclable garbage occurs in several stages. First, garbage is manually selected from the conveyor, which will go to the landfill – these are children's toys, fabric bags, clothes. At the next stage, using air currents, light paper is separated from more solid waste such as cans and bottles. Steel debris is picked up by one magnet, paramagnetic aluminum is pulled out with another magnet. After this stage, plastic containers remain on the conveyor: they are sorted using an optical sensor that determines the different density and thickness of the plastic. The necessary waste is separated by means of air currents. All the raw materials obtained are then sorted into briquettes, which are sold. Aluminum cans are one of the main sources of income for waste recycling companies. Aluminum is reused to make new cans, bicycles, car parts.    


At the state level, Austria has adopted a waste sorting program that collects glass, metal, paper, organic waste, plastic and other types of waste. But even here it has not yet been possible to achieve uniformity – for example, in some cities there is a division of glass bottles into dark and light ones. Six garbage trucks drive according to their schedule. The Austrians, like the Japanese, keep garbage in their homes. In order not to get extra animals or lose the sense of smell, all garbage is rewashed, that is, it lies in special places in the house in a clean form. Beverage bottles can be exchanged at special points for a discount on a purchase in the store.   


Russia ”produces” 3.5 billion tons of waste per year, of which 40 million tons are household waste. About 10% of this waste is recycled: 3% is incinerated, 7% is recycled. The remaining 90%, or 35 million tons of household waste, ends up in landfills. There are companies in Russia that deal with recycling. The only plant in the whole country that makes granulate from old plastic bottles for the production of new ones, just like in Japan, is located in Solnechnogorsk, Moscow Region. Bottles are first turned into PET (polyethylene terephthalate) flakes and then into pellets, which are used to make bottles and then to make ”holofiber” for stuffing children's toys pillows and ”balls” for baby furniture and cushion chairs. PET granules are used for the production of packaging for auto chemicals, cosmetics, containers for beer and soft drinks, milk, water, oil and juices, for bags, jackets and other clothing, pallets for confectionery, containers, cans for household goods and electronics.