OSAKA, April 24 (Xinhua) -- One year has passed since a recycling plant, jointly administered by two cities in the western Japanese region of Kansai, started operations. Now it is being developed as a leisure park for children and a tourist attraction.
Some 8,000 local people have already visited the recycling plant and they have helped raise awareness and support among the public to protect the environment by recycling valuable metals and plastic waste.
Ahead of "Gominohi" (Refuse Day) to be observed on May 3 in Japan, the plant is now being spruced up by setting up amusement facilities.
The overall objective is to promote the concept of recycling waste materials and protect the earth's ecological balance.
The fun-filled learning facility called 3R Center was designed to enhance environmental awareness, promoting a society committed to "recycling", "reducing" and "reusing".
The center is part of a joint development project by the cities of Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture and neighboring Itami in Hyogo Prefecture.
The three-storey building constructed a year ago in a field near an embankment along the border between the two cities, covers a total floor area of 11,000 square meters and has been operated by a special district authority to recycle plastic bottles, containers and packaging, glass bottles, tins, paper and textile as well as wood chips.
These waste materials are collected daily by garbage trucks as "recyclable waste" or "combustible refuse" from local residents. After the wastes arrive at a platform at the recycling hub, they are automatically conveyed to various machines such as vibrating screens, particle size sorters and metal separators to be sorted and all these activities are monitored from a central station.
During the recycling process in the building, manual sorting is still a key phase to most efficiently recycle the refuse collected, 3R Center spokesman Katunori Iino told Xinhua.
The facility offers employment opportunities to people with disabilities for the manual sorting operations, Iino said.
"As long as machines cannot fully check the cleanliness of each object on the conveyer and contamination of foreign substances under the current system introduced here, we still need manual work at several steps to complete the process." Iino added, "But it is very unfortunate that we often find harmful and dangerous items in the waste on the belt, such as knives and syringes, which may damage employees' fingers and hands."
Iino added that since they want more people to understand they must maintain a safe and secure work environment there, the center decided to exhibit its manual sorting processes and the difficulties involved to promote awareness about the importance of properly separating rubbish in advance.
In fact, there is a tour route in the 3R Center. After a general introduction to the facility that includes lectures by center personnel and DVD presentations in the entrance hall, visitors can proceed to corridors for them to see the actual processing methods used for plastic bottles,other plastic materials and tins, while getting a close-up view of how non- recyclable items are manually separated.
The plant also provides space where elementary school students are able to learn the importance of the three Rs--"reducing"," reusing" and "recycling"--with games and quiz.
At the sorting and recycling game area, for example, players are given cards indicating familiar types of solid waste, which they can try to sort appropriately in front of a panel.
They can also learn how wood chips made from tree trimmings regularly collected from the cities are utilized.
Iino said it is now compulsory for all fourth-grade students at elementary schools in the two cities to join a social studies program in which they visit the recycling center and watch processing methods for collected garbage. This is to enhance their knowledge of recycling and reducing waste.
Iino added that the number of visitors usually goes up during the holidays when children accompanied by parents and families visit before or after shopping. He also said the recycling center has collaborated with a travel magazine publisher to introduce the waste management facility as a new tourist destination in Kansai.
Ahead of "Golden Week," one of the longest vacation periods of the year for many Japanese workers that starts this weekend, the new challenge for the center is to attract more people to visit the facility and help save the Earth.