Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Japan Laws Target Homeless, Outlaw Collecting Cans, Bottles,

New by-laws appearing to target homeless street people in numerous wards of Tokyo and other Japanese cities have criminalized any removal of recyclables left at designated refuse locations.

On Oct. 1 a new regulation went into effect in the ward that makes it illegal for anyone except agents authorized to do so by the ward government to remove recyclables left at designated refuse locations. The ostensible reason for this law is to prevent removal companies that do not have contracts with Sumida Ward from taking recyclables such as cans, bottles and newspapers.

One man's trash is another man's treasure

These measures are just wrong on so many levels. First of all, the first objective of recycling should be to reuse, not to recyle. Reuse is far more efficient that recycling. So, if it is impossible to remove any item that is ever deposited at a refuse point, how can any item ever be reused? It is flat-out crazy prohibit that.

It is unclear based on the information available whether some or any of the aluminum cans the homeless in Japan collect have a deposit. Apparently not.

As it was before these laws came into effect, the homeless in Japan would have needed to work a full day bringing in piles of cans to collect maybe $25 worth of aluminum for scrap. Obviously it would be an exercise in futility for a homeless person to rely on cans found in random places. So, in effect, this law also puts an end to homeless people collecting litter, with obvious impacts on the environment and added costs to municipalities for cleaning.

What the Japanese need to do, if they wish to ensure that certain recycling companies do not infringe on other recycling companies contract territories, is construct a law accordingly. Organized collection by truck, from other companies' contracted recycling locations, is theft, pure and simple.

The work that homeless people do and the initiatives shown by those on the bottom rungs of society are practices to be nurtured, not nuked. If there is some way to turn it around to give these people an entree back into a life of self-respect and modest attainments, so much the better. Otherwise, just leave them alone.

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