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 my show you how many trash cans I have in my tiny kitchen.
Jonelle Patrick is the author of four novels set in Tokyo…
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!