The Japanese Way

Toru Hanai / Reuters

Slow turning: Japan owes its energy efficiency in part to wind farms like this one near Tokyo

Watching someone carefully rinsing out a spent mustard packet doesn't sound like entertainment, but in Japan it's big-time television. On a recent segment of Tokyo's popular morning show Hanamaru Market, a waste-recycling expert submerged a flimsy plastic packet in a tub of water, gently allowing water in and out to rinse it clean. A host of the segment stood by, watching intently, and asked if it was necessary to use soap. No, said the expert, water and a little elbow grease are all it requires.

That may sound obsessive, but sorting trash,...

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