Japan, like all industrial nations, has experienced more and more difficulty disposing of waste products. The production of trash for each person rose from 1.75 pounds per day in 1977 to nearly 2 pounds in 1987 while the total output in Japan rose from around 90,000 tons to 108,500 tons per day in the same period. It is no wonder that government authorities have difficulty dealing with it. Cities in particular are hard-pressed. Although the Tokyo prefectural government is striving hard and is even using garbage to build artificial islands to house cities of the future, some 65% of Tokyo’s waste is disposed of in other prefectures. This creates a great deal of antagonism in rural areas where Tokyo’s garbage is dumped. Campaigns objecting to such dumping operations are occasionally found even in the most isolated areas of the Nakasendo highway.
Recycling is one option to deal with the problem. Traditionally, there have been businesses which dispose of easily handled waste and many of these continue. The paper recycler drives through most neighborhoods broadcasting appeals for wastepaper which will be paid for in cash or in recycled paper, but industrial waste is a greater problem because much of it is difficult to recycle or dangerous.
In large urban areas, there have been arguments over the location of incineration and recycling plants. Economies of scale dictate large, central plants with garbage being trucked in from a wide area. But no neighborhood wants to have the garbage of hundreds of thousands of other people carried past their front gates. Political rows over this question have delayed construction of modern disposal plants, in some cases by decades.