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The Garbage Post

This is a garbage post.

No, literally: I'm going to be writing about garbage. Specifically, about the convoluted way Japan organizes its garbage disposal.

I'm sure there are more detailed accounts of this process out there. The Setagaya ward, where I live, has a ten page instruction manual for how to dispose of garbage! (If you're interested, you can read it HERE. ) Furthermore, methods for garbage disposal--and even what types of garbage bag are acceptable-- vary city by city if not neighborhood by neighborhood. And if you mess up in how you dispose of your garbage, at minimum the particular offending bag won't be collected: instead, a tag will be left on the bag saying something along the lines of "This is not the XYZ garbage collection day;" at worst no one's garbage will be collected and then everyone hates you.


This is the breakdown of garbage collection for my area. Fridays are recyclable garbage (except for PET bottles, i.e. plastic water bottles, those are disposed of in a separate category) such as cardboard, paper, books, and magazines. Wednesday and Saturday are "burnable garbage," which is anything from food scraps, bits of paper too small to recycle, plastic items, rubber, styrofoam, cloth, leather etcetc. I would say that about 80% of my garbage is "burnable," though I shudder to think of plastic like that actually being burned. The second and fourth Thursday of each month is for "non-burnable garbage" which is stuff like broken glass bottles, metal items, and mirrors. Then the first and third Thursdays are for PET bottles, which have to be washed, the caps discarded into the burnable garbage, crushed, and then put into a clear plastic garbage bag. Oh, and everything has to be disposed of in the proper bins by 8am or else you're stuck with it until the next collection time. And in the hot summer, with food waste lying around, and interior space precious to begin with those extra few days of accumulated, smelly garbage mean a LOT. Apparently it used to be even MORE convoluted: paper and plastic items also had to be separated but now, thank goodness, they can all go into one plastic bag.


There's the bin everything gets dumped in. Sometimes, instead of a proper bin, there's just an area of curb that the bags get put on and covered with a green net to protect them from tanuki ("racoon dogs," one of Japan's urban pests) and crows.


Additionally, cans and bottles have a separate yellow bin. Setagaya is actually quite easy in terms of its recyclables--in Kanazawa, one host mom I stayed with has to take her recyclable glass and plastic bottles to a disposal center that was at least a 10 minute drive away. I just get to put mine out on the curb, thank goodness.

I've always wondered why Japan, if it's so obsessed about garbage disposal, has so much packaging. Fruits and candies individually packaged, if not twice over. Saran wrap everywhere. Everything gets printed and distributed. It's all a bit ironic to me. I also wonder how they're going to handle it for the 2020 Olympics...I know that no visitor wants to stop and consider every piece of garbage they have before throwing them away in the already too-scarce garbage cans. (FYI for anyone in Japan if you have garbage and want to throw it away, a convenience store is your best bet--they have garbage cans for everything and they're all helpfully labeled.) It is sort of nice, though, to have such defined categories. At home I sometimes stare at an item and wonder if it's garbage-garbage or something I can recycle. Here, everything usually has a little mark on its label that says what sort of garbage it is, or what it should be considered as. For instance, a PET bottle's label says that the label should be considered burnable while the bottle itself is PET recyclable. If you know what to look for, most of the thinking is already done for you. It's just annoying to have to have two or three separate garbage bags/cans lying around at all times.

Tomorrow (Friday) is a recyclable day! Time to put out all the cardboard boxes my stuff came in (properly broken down, of course) on the curb and finally get them out of my room!

Tomorrow is also my orientation. Then I have a "New Hire Ceremony" on Saturday and THEN I have eighteen days of job training before I begin at my assigned store. I have homework: some online learning and a textbook to read (which, from what I've gathered, I actually CAN read without too much difficulty!). Wish me luck!

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