Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

Trash September 17, 2011

Filed under: Daily Life — GaijinMD @ 4:53 PM
A trash can

Image via Wikipedia

Within the first hour after I arrived in Japan, I encountered an obstacle I had heard about (but didn’t think too much of): sorting trash.  “What can be so seemingly hard about that?” one can ask.  Well, my padawan, let me tell you…  In Japan, trash is collected every weekday.  Each day’s trash that is collected is a different type of waste so one has to sort them first; consult your apartment building to determine your particular trash schedule.  The following are the different categories of garbage:

  • Burnable waste
    • Kitchen waste and food
    • Cooking oil
    • Soiled paper (tissues, diapers, etc)
    • Plastic products (washing basins, rulers, CD’s, pens, etc)
    • Cloth/clothing
    • Leather items
    • Rubber/vinyl goods
    • Wooden items
    • Charcoal, drying agents, disposable pocket warmers, etc
  • Non-burnable waste
    • Containers that can’t be collected as “plastic containers and packaging” or “bottles, cans, and PET bottles”
    • Small household electrical appliances
    • Metal products (pans, kettles, etc)
    • Glass, china, fluorescent lamps
    • Blocks, bricks
  • Pressurized spray cans, gas cartridges
    • Hairspray/insecticide tins
  • Plastic containers and packaging
    • Packs and cups (egg, tofu, etc)
    • Trays (fresh food, snack, etc)
    • Bottles
    • Tubes (mayonnaise, ketchup, toothpaste, etc)
    • Plastic bags and wrapping
    • Plastic lids and labels
    • Nets and shock absorbent packaging
  • Dry batteries
  • Bottles, cans, and PET bottles
    • Empty bottles
    • Empty cans
    • PET bottles
  • Branches, leaves, grass, and weed cuttings
  • Miscellaneous paper
    • Paper boxes
    • Paper cartons, packs, and lids
    • Paper alcohol and juice cartons
    • Postcards, letters, envelopes, etc
    • Wrapping paper, paper bags, aluminum foil, etc
    • Shredded paper
  • Bulky refuse
    • Kitchen equipment (stoves, etc)
    • Furniture, bedding, chairs, etc
    • Household electrical appliances
    • Sports and leisure goods, musical instruments
    • Tree branches/trunks (>50 cm but <2 meters)

Burnable and non-burnable trash have to be placed in special bags that you can buy at your local grocery or convenient stores.

Burnable waste is usually collected twice a week whereas plastic containers and bottles/cans are picked up once a week.  Miscellaneous paper is collected once every 2 weeks while pressurized cans, batteries, and branches are collected once very 4 weeks.

To dispose of bulky refuse, one first has to purchase a collection sticker (available at supermarkets, convenience stores, etc) and then write down the reference number (obtained by calling the Bulky Refuse Collection Centre that also tells you the collection date and fee).  Put the bulky refuse out at the designated collection date by 08:30.

If you have any questions on sorting trash, you can contact your local Citizen Contact Center (Japanese and English), or you may end up like me and offend the trash-gods when I tried to throw away a large plastic garbage can (it was broken) and mistakenly thought it was a Non-burnable item.  Turns out that I was wrong so I had to haul my trash back up into my apartment to re-evaluate what type of waste it is (all the while trying to make sure no one else saw my embarrassment—should’ve worn my trench coat, sunglasses, and hat) .  :/

All of this trash sorting does beg the question of what happens to trash in America?  Why don’t we sort also?  In addition, it makes me feel bad about the people whose job it is primarily to sort trash in big buildings, i.e. hospitals and hotels.


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