Taipei has strived to achieve "zero landfill, total recycling" by 2010, 30 years ahead of the UN's trash targets. It will probably fall short, but its policies are still exemplary. The city has encouraged the private sector to build composting facilities and recycling plants, and requires residents to pay for trash collection by the bag. Garbage trucks playing Beethoven's "Für Elise" and Badarzewska's "The Maiden's Prayer" collect trash, which must be in city-approved bags, from residents, who toss the bags into the trucks themselves. Taipei promotes trade in secondhand goods and introduced new methods of kitchen-waste disposal — one pilot program turns food waste into pig feed. The result: The volume of trash has been slashed by well over 60%.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.