Lisa's In And Around Tokyo: Musashino Clean Center - - City Goes Trendy With Its Trash Disposal

Lisa's In and Around Tokyo: Musashino Clean Center--City goes trendy with its trash disposal

All I can say is "wow, wow and wow!" My socks were knocked off visiting a waste disposal site. Yes, a waste disposal site--you know, the place where they do what they do with our garbage?

News flash for governments and businesses with NIMBYs giving them headaches: You need to go to Musashino Clean Center (MCC). This facility opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing and dealing with "inherently undesirables."

In the center of an urban area right across the street from Musashino City Hall and nestled among a sports complex, schools and parks is the delightful MCC. The facade is composed of terra-cotta louver that symbolizes the original thickets of Musashino Plateau, and the outer wall is covered with greenery.

I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined such a pleasing architectural design and one so in tune with its surroundings to be a waste management facility!

The inside has a museum feel, and walk-ins are welcome anytime during business hours. Visitors are free to tour the circuit at their leisure, viewing through large windows plant equipment and people at work.

Touch-screen tablets are installed throughout with visual explanations subtitled in Japanese and English. Pepper (the humanoid robot) and friendly human staff are unobtrusively stationed to support visitors.

The bright entrance has pendant lights made from recycled glass material hanging from the high ceiling and tasteful benches made of gingko trees from the premises. Here, visitors can view videos and flip through magazines and newspaper articles related to the center.

Past the entrance, you’ll see the central control room where staff in uniforms watch and operate computers, and from there, enjoy the stroll through the hallways with cedar wood ceilings produced in the Tama region.

Watching a huge UFO catcher-like claw crane pick up and move hundreds of combustible waste garbage bags (of the kind we put out on collection days) is surreal. The bags are moved from the waste pit to the incinerator, which decreases their weight and volume.

The combustion of waste produces high-temperature exhaust gas that is purified and then discharged. Ash is sorted and transported to a separate facility to be turned into eco-cement. Noncombustible, bulky and harmful wastes are crushed and sorted. Iron and aluminum are loaded onto trucks and transported to a recycling plant.

The state-of-the-art, stunningly beautiful, disaster-resistant facility supplies energy to its surroundings, and in case of an emergency such as a major earthquake, electricity created through waste combustion will be provided to city hall, which will serve as the headquarters for disaster countermeasures.

With a facility like this, I’m a YIMBY. Or maybe I’ll just move to Musashino.


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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.