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You can konmarie or you can kamikatsu with kaizen

You can konmarie or you can kamikatsu with kaizen

So you’ve dirty-streamed the entire “Tidying Up” Netflix series, and then you actually got up off the lounge, or bed, and konmaried your life. Hopefully you are now reveling in your new (semi) minimalist lifestyle, sparked with joy, of course!

As long as any newly found wardrobe space isn’t seen as an opportunity to go on a shopping spree and restock, there are many eco-friendly positives to the Konmari decluttering phenomenon. Greenpeace even wonders whether Konmari is the answer to our environmental woes. While that's a very big call, it's a point worth exploring

Konmari on The Waste Hierarchy

On the Waste Hierarchy – think of it as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Eco-Consumers - Konmari has the power to influence every single level.  The big grand gesture part of Konmari - the getting things out of your house phase - engages the Recycle, Recover and Disposal possibilities for waste.

Shifting the problem

If the results of Konmari decluttering have been visible inside your home, unfortunately they have also been visible on our streets, op shops and at our rubbish dumps. How well did you deal with your Konmari outcasts? Did you create a bigger problem than you even imagined? 

Your donations are going straight into the Earth

When we flood the Recycle option, the overflow goes straight to the most undesirable Disposal level. And in Australia, that means landfill. The National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations estimates 60,000 tonnes of unwanted items donated to charities are sent to landfill each year, and that was before Marie Kondo even came into our lives. 

We can say with some certainty that the delightful Marie Kondo would never have intended for her Japanese philosophy to generate negative environmental issues.  But it’s pretty simple to see what has happened.  Japan, unlike Australia, has a cultural approach to waste management that allows for a methodology like Konmari to flow smoothly, not create tremendous bottlenecks in an already clogged and inefficient waste system.

Doing recycling right

Australians are currently having a sketchy relationship with our recycling industry.  On an individual level, separating waste appropriately is not our strong suit and we have a bit of a limited mindset about what can be recycled.  We focus on relatively few recycling options, such as paper, glass and hard plastic, yet EVERYTHING has the ability to be recycled so why don’t we? Terracycle is forging new ground here, both with products and with relationships, and tackling this mindset, but for the most part the nation is wearing its recycling blinkers.

How Japan solved recycling

There are countries however that have very good waste management and recycling systems, and surprise surprise, Japan is one of them. (Japan instituted strict waste management laws in 1995 to cope with the 160,000 tonnes of waste which its householders produce every day when they began to run out of landfill and it has had a clear impact on society. Japan now has among the most spotless streets in the world.)

Any Australian who has visited Japan will tell you how they spent ages looking for a public rubbish bin, but with little success. The thing is there are bins, many bins, but they hidden away in people’s homes, because a 20 year old law is now everyday life.)

Personal Responsibility

The Japanese are masters at taking personally responsibility for their litter, taking their rubbish home with them. At home, litter is sorted it into at least 10 separate categories (!) putting our solitary yellow-lidded co-mingled recycling bins to shame. The Japanese transfer the waste themselves in clear bags so all can see the content, to waste stations. 

So, what is Kamikatsu?

Kamikatsu is not a new trend, it’s not even a verb.  It’s a place, in the Tokushima Prefecture that takes recycling to the new high. Waste is separated into 45 categories in a program that has seen Kamikatsu save 80% of it non-organic waste from landfill, become a tourist attraction and a global beacon for dedicated recycling on a community level. The town of 1,700 people aims to be zero-waste by 2020 and are well on target.

Zero Waste - get the right meaning

The term zero waste can be ambiguous and contextual. There’s ‘zero waste’ and then there’s ‘zero waste to landfill’.  If you are reusing, recovering and recycling, then you are in the business of ‘zero waste to landfill’ which is often what people mean when they saying ‘zero waste’.

True Zero Waste is the AVOID step of the Waste Hierarchy and can only be achieved by not bringing anything unnecessary into your home in the first place, and that is a huge cultural shift. It's this part of the KonMari philosophy that has the power to drive tremendous environmental benefit.


Only buy what you need

Once you have purged yourself of all meaningless items in your life and you truly treasure the things that you have, Marie Kondo implores you to only buy things that spark genuine joy, and things that will last.  It's this tenet that some say points to Marie singlehandedly slowing down reflex-buying and stopping fast fashion in its tracks 

In the end, Kaizen is actually the simplest, most strategic solution for easy everyone results. 1% at a time

The principle of Kaizen is useful to adopt a less consumption based lifestyle. Don't do it in the first place. Kaizen is where you aim to make small 1% incremental changes every day. One step at a time. Remember as long as you are doing something good everyday, it's a move forward in the right direction.

Tips to kaizen

Visit Terracycle to learn about ‘hard to recycle’ products and what you can do.

Check out all kinds of Recycle, Reuse options here on - including who sells or takes back household items for re-purposing.

Watch ABC TV’s War on Waste and it you have already watched it, watch it again.  

Join a Facebook group for tips and support.

Like personal fashion style, find your own zero-waste style! Research and find an Influencer are on their own personal path to living Zero Waste lifestyles 

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