Amid a sweltering summer afternoon, Houstonians interested in learning more about environmental sustainability and recycling converged in much cooler temperatures inside the United Way meeting center on Wednesday, July 27th to learn about the recycling eco-culture of Japan as well as Houston. The event “Land of the Rising [Green] Sun: Japan’s Recycling Initiative” was a collaborative effort by the Consulate-General of Japan at Houston, Keep Houston Beautiful, the Japan-America Initiative, and Toshiba International Corporation.
The event was a panel discussion to bring together representatives from the world of recycling. The panel included Ms. Eiko Sato, a 3R (recycle, reduce, and reuse) Specialist from Shizuoka, Japan; Director of Solid Waste for the city of Houston, Mr. Harry Hayes; Municipal Representative for Greenstar Recycling, Ms. Teri League; Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator for the University of Houston, Ms. Leah Wolfthal; and Environmental Health and Safety Manager for Toshiba International Corporation, Mr. Shane Daniels.
Ms. Sato spoke through translation about grassroots-level action that anyone can do, like the use of reusable bags for shopping and working diligently to reduce one’s waste. Mr. Hayes spoke about the great strides that the city of Houston has made towards recycling over the past years, increasing recycling 200%. Ms. League discussed Greenstar’s single-stream recycling method, which gives customers the ease to put all recyclable materials into a single container for pickup (an opposite method when compared to Japan’s exhaustive sorting method) which hopes to make recycling easier for Houstonians. Ms. Wofthal focused on the University of Houston’s campaigns to raise awareness of recycling, the importance of sustainable living, bringing with her art projects made by students using only recycled materials. Mr. Daniels rounded out the panel by discussing Toshiba’s stringent efforts to reduce waste output, noting that while TIC produces around 5% waste, in Japan, the company strives to be at 0%.
After the speakers gave their individual presentations, the group rounded out the event answering questions about recycling and sustainability. A consensus point that came out of the discussion was the supreme importance to recycling-education to help get people to take part in the effort. The event, originally slated to run from 3:30 to 5:00 PM continued on past 5:30 as the audience and speakers continued asking each other about different takes on eco-philosophy from both Houston and Japan.
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