I can't get enough of the garbage cranes. I have loaded several pictures of them on flickr, so check them out.
Anyway, I went to the Minami Garbage Processing Plant today, where they take 'burnable garbage' to be burned. Japan has very little space for landfills, so everyone has to separate their trash. Most of it is recycled. Aicle, which I visited again yesterday, handles cans, PET bottles (plastic drink bottles), glass bottles, plastic packaging, and cardboard. Some other kinds of trash are burried in landfills, but to minimize this, most things that can't be 'recycled' in the normal sense of the word are burned. The plant I visited today, however, has taken certain steps to ensure that even by burning large amounts of trash, minimum environmental damage occurs.
In addition to having a 170 meter tall smoke stack to keep the smoke high enough to avoid bothering residents, the plant is equipped with the latest filters to minimize pollution. The heat generated from the burning trash heats water that turns turbines to generate electricity. Excess electricity is sold back to Tokyo Electric company. The ask from the plant is also mixed with asphalt and is put into roads. Talk about using every part of the buffalo!
Anyway, I visited a 'test plant' yesterday, where they generate clean-burning methane gas using kitchen refuse and other forms of burnable garbage. This is a large part of what is considered 'burnable trash' and the experiment has been largely successful. Right now they are only recycling a small percentage of burnable garbage into fuel, but there are plans to build new facilities and run the city's garbage trucks on this gas. The plant I visited today will then burn less garbage than it does now.
Anyway, going to Aicle again was interesting because I understood everything this time. The last time I was there I got kind of lazy and just nodded my head and pretended to understand sometimes when the explanation involved too much technical vocabulary. Yesterday, however, we were accompanied by a French college student who has been interning in Yokosuka for about 2 months and is leaving soon. Since I was interpreting, I had to pay attention and if I didn't understand, I had to ask the guide to explain in more basic Japanese. I think our guide understands English, because if I made a mistake, she would correct me (again, in Japanese).
Tomorrow I am going on cliff patrol. It was a nice break to get away from emergency management for a few days, but I am ready to get back into the research. If it isn't raining too hard tomorrow, I will try to post some good pictures.