Japan's Environment Ministry will begin development of a contactless garbage collection system for household waste in an effort to reduce the risk of infection to workers amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, ministry officials said Thursday.
The ministry plans to have garbage trucks with lifting apparatus, such as rear loaders, to pick up waste placed in large containers at collection points, similar to systems employed in other countries, they said.
Research and other costs associated with the project, which also aims to address the concerns of aging workers and the country's labor shortage, will be included in the ministry's budget requests for the next fiscal year.
There is concern that garbage collectors, considered among society's essential workers, could be infected if trash bags containing used face masks and tissues break and spill out their contents during collection.
But the costs of introducing new types of garbage trucks and securing space for containers on Japan's narrow streets remain hurdles in the implementation of collection methods used in other countries.
Japan currently has waste collection points even in small alleyways, many of which could not accommodate large containers. But placing containers on larger roads would be inconvenient for residents, while smaller containers would mean less garbage collected at one time.
In addition to safety, the ministry expects the new collection system to be both efficient for workers and convenient for residents.
"It is possible that collection methods for city centers will differ from those for suburban and regional areas. With no end in sight to the pandemic, we want to consider a hygienic arrangement that reduces human contact as much as possible," a ministry official said.