During Japan’s economic miracle decades of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the nation experienced the fastest economic growth in the world. Consequently, the country climbed to number two in the global economic rankings, second only to the United States. One unwanted by-product of this success was the equally fast growth of the country’s waste, which soared to 44 million tons in 1980—five times the level generated in 1960, according to Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.