Failing at Putting Out The Trash

Tomorrow’s trash challenge, as outlined on my handy garbage guidelines poster.

Foreigners are legendary at garbage fail in Japan, but anxiety about Doing Trash Right runs deep here, even among native-born Nihon-jin. In a Japanese soap opera I watched recently, one housewife mercilessly bullies her neighbor by sneaking The Wrong Kind Of Trash into her bags once they’d been put out at the curb, causing them to be rejected day after day by the garbage collectors. It’s no joke!

So how hard is it? Check out the Saturday collection guidelines. Apparently, tomorrow I may put the following “Combustible Waste” out at the curb:

• Kitchen scraps (drain liquid from them)

• Paper diapers (waste should be flushed into toilets)

• Plastic items with the mark of <プラ> with unremovable stains

• Plastic items except for “containers” and “packages”

• Paper cups, paper coated by plastic, pictures, windowed envelopes, etc.

• Rubber goods

• Leather bags and shoes

• Small number of branches (bind them into small bundles)

• Litter which is not recyclable paper waste or tissue

And that’s just the Saturday list. Garbage is collected here five days a week, but it’s different stuff every day. Monday is Non-Combustible Waste Day, Wednesday they cart away Combustible Waste again, Thursday is paper goods, and Friday is four kinds of recyclables (all items washed, crushed or bundled and bagged by type).

Really, the only way to deal with this is to throw it away correctly in the first place. Don’t make me show you how many trash cans I have in my tiny kitchen.

 The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had


Published by Jonelle Patrick

Writes all the Japan things.

8 thoughts on “Failing at Putting Out The Trash

    1. It’s really making me conscious of what I buy, because it’s such a pain to throw away excessive packaging. The one thing you can never have too much of, though, is approved “combustible” bags. Since each kind of trash has to be put out separately, these disappear at an alarming rate!

    2. That is stunning, and I think only in Japan, where there’s so much attention to detail, could such a trash system exist.

  1. Actually, it’s not a job that can fall to one person in the household – in real life, people don’t sort their trash after it’s thrown away, each person sorts it as he or she tosses it out. Most people set things up so that it’s just as easy to put trash in the right container as the wrong one, and they grow up knowing which kind of stuff goes in which category.

    And for the stuff you can’t quite figure out where it belongs, there’s a 20-page supplemental booklet that helpfully lists everything including the kitchen sink, what category it belongs in, and how to dispose of it. For example: used batteries. These have to be dropped off in special boxes at various Ward Office facilities. Used ink cartridges: you have to take the empties back to the store where you bought them. LIke that.

  2. You forgot to mention the Styrofoam trays, pet bottles and milk boxes that go back to the supermarket…

    One advantage to living in Segagaya-ku is we no longer have to separate paper and plastic. Take that, Meguro-ku! Hah!

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