Student led recycling at Keimei Gakuen

Posted: 09 March 2020



Age range

Whole school


Like many schools in Japan, Keimei Gakuen classrooms are cleaned by the students to build their character to develop them into model citizens. Called ‘Gakko Soji’ (school cleansing), the practice builds a sense of responsibility and teamwork into the students.

As part of this practice the students sort all of their trash for recycling. They divide all trash to bottle caps, plastic bottles, cans, paper, burnable and un-burnable waste. Then the students who are in charge of the trash, check whether the trash is divided correctly. The volunteer committee students then sends all PET bottle caps to a recycling company. The profit generated from selling the recycled caps is donated to UNICEF through the Japan Committee for “Vaccines for the World’s Children” to provide vaccines to children in developing countries. The recycled PET bottle tops are cut into little pieces and then cleaned. The pieces are transformed into little pellets that are used to manufacture new products. This helps to reduce the amount of ‘new’ plastic being manufactured.


All students at the school are responsible for cleaning and recycling every day. Students start taking part in year 1 in elementary school, and learn how to clean their own classrooms and learn about recycling. In Japan, using the ‘3 Rs’ -Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is highly encouraged. If something can be reused, then reuse it!

Students carefully sort their rubbish ready for recycling:

Burnable rubbish 燃えるごみ

This includes general household waste, kitchen scraps and garden waste.

Paper Waste 古紙

This includes newspapers, loose paper, cardboard, books and magazines; they should be bundled (and flattened in the case of boxes) and tied with string.

Non-Burnable Garbage 燃えないごみ

Includes plastic wrappings and containers, bottles, ceramic and glass objects, small metal items including pots or pans and in some cases small appliances. Broken glass, ceramics or sharp objects should be wrapped in paper and placed in a bag labelled ‘dangerous’.

Plastic Containers and Wrappings プラスチック

This classification includes plastic trays, packages, bags, Styrofoam, non-PET plastic bottles and wrappings. These items are usually conveniently marked with a (プラ) symbol.

Cans, Glass Bottles, PET Bottles 缶, ビン, ペットボトル

Items should be rinsed out and labels, caps and covers removed and sorted appropriately. All PET caps are separated again to donate to the “Vaccines for the World’s Children” project.

Students place the sorted rubbish into the coloured, designated bins ready for collection.


There are strict rules around sorting recycling in Japan, so we have a committee of students who care about the environment to check that the rubbish is correctly sorted.  These students are interested in SDGs and are responsible for the future. Usually they care about the nature and environment, and are very responsible.


Encouraging a child to take care of his/her surroundings from a young age inspires them to respect their surroundings and environment, and to always try and keep it clean. It teaches them to work in a team and help each other. By spending their own time and effort sweeping, mopping, and wiping makes students respect their own work and the work of others. It helps to develop a sense of responsibility and ownership and that cleaning the school is not just the job of the school — it is also the concern of students.

It helps to build a mindset of being mindful about others and to be more compassionate; a primary need of the world today. Students grow up to become citizens who are always on the lookout for the betterment and happiness of their fellow humans.

Long term

Huge volumes of various kinds of plastic litter flow into the oceans around the world every day. If it continues at this pace, the weight of marine plastic litter is predicted to exceed the weight of fish by 2050. This litter affects things like the marine environment, ship navigation, tourism, fisheries, and living environments in coastal areas, but in recent years, there is particular concern about the effects of microscopic plastic litter with a size of 5 mm or less (microplastics) on ecosystems. As a island, this is a special concern for Japan.

As such, the international community is working on initiatives to prevent the pollution of our oceans by plastic litter. Sustainable Development Goals (The SDGs) have “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds” by 2025 as a target of Goal 14, and measures to deal with the ocean waste are also discussed by the G7 and G20.

Along with implementing a variety of measures to reduce plastic litter within the school and taking measures to recycle what we do use, we run Global Studies workshops from Year 9 to Year 10. Here students learn about world issues such as conflicts, economics, environment, development and energy. In the year 11 everyone needs to find a  theme to solve one certain world problem spending a whole year. In the year 12 they need to make a presentation on their theme.

We also had a global seminar for the junior high school students in November. We divided the students into 28 groups, and each group had two or three students from year 7, 8 and 9. The year 9 students acted in the role of facilitator, and discussed ways in which to improve our environment on campus and outside of campus. They created the Keimei Green Plan and shared their ideas, they also made posters.

We are hoping that the combination of teaching good recycling as everyday practice and educating our students around the real need to take care of the environment will offer real, long term outcomes and help reduce mans negative impact on the planet.


Author: Mari Sekine, Round Square Rep, Keimei Gakuen

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