Garbage island no more: how one Japanese community triumphed over a toxic waste dump

Teshima – site of Japan’s worst case of illegal dumping of industrial waste – was saved by locals who fought relentlessly to have their beloved home restored

Toru Ishii remembers when the shredded car tyres, batteries, and runoff the colour and consistency of treacle blighted the landscape on Teshima, his island home in Japan’s inland sea. Those sights are now confined to a museum, as a reminder of how environmental destruction can unfold in plain sight, and how ordinary people can fight back.

For several years, almost a million tonnes of industrial waste were dumped illegally on Teshima’s western tip, in the worst case of its kind in the country’s history.

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