Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Garbage in Japan

Garbage is a big deal in Japan. Since there’s not a lot of space for people, there’s definitely not a lot of space for their garbage. 

First of all, good luck trying to find a place to throw anything away in public. Almost all public trash cans were done away with after the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995. You’re going to have to bring your trash home with you or find a convenience store.

PET bottles/cans and plastic packaging
Second, garbage must be sorted at home or you can get fined. We were told that the mama-sans in the neighborhood will go through the trash and figure out that it was the neighborhood gaijin (foreigner) from all the foreign wrappers and such. Some Japanese have had bad experiences with lazy Americans not sorting the garbage so you might get blamed for everything, even if it’s not your garbage! Luckily our neighbors are very nice and we don’t have any issues.

Garbage is sorted into burnable, non-burnable, PET bottles and cans, plastic packaging, and group resource collection.  Everything has to be in clear plastic bags (except burnables), not double-bagged, or wrapped with twine (group resource). And rinsed—wash all those bottles, tubes, and jars out! Confused yet? 

Burnable – is incinerated, obviously. Food scraps, food soiled paper , tissues and such. I’ve been toying around with the idea of making a compost pile since burning everything just seems so wasteful.

Non-burnable – landfilled. Hard plastic, rubber, foil, etc.

PET bottles, cans, and glass – recycled. PET bottles are labeled PETE in the U.S. And cans are, well, cans…in Japan they’re heavier so it makes you think you’re not done with your drink!
Plastic packaging – recycled. We usually have the most of this stuff, since the Japanese are crazy about over-packaging everything.

Group resource collection – recycled. Includes magazines, newspapers, milk cartons (rinsed and cut open so they’re flat). They have to be bound with twine or put in paper bags.

Trash cage and net on our block
There is no trash pickup at your house. Every block or so there will be a green net and/or a cage where you have to drop off your garbage on the designated day. For us, it’s burnables on Mondays and Thursdays, plastic packaging on Tuesday, non-burnables on Wednesday, and PET bottles etc. on Fridays. Group resource collection is the second and fourth Saturday of every month.  It varies by neighborhood. Sounds like fun, right?!! Also, you have to get your trash out there between 6-8 am that morning so the animals don’t get to it the night before. You’ll know when the garbage truck shows up because it plays a little song that sounds like an ice cream truck!

You know sometimes how you think “Hmm, I don’t *really* want to wash out the peanut butter jar—I’ll just throw it away.” That’s not gonna fly in Japan. Last night I found myself cutting open tubes of glue and rinsing the insides before throwing it away!

The City of Yokosuka helpfully provides a booklet for new residents. Oh, and by the way, it's 12 pages long. LOL!

No comments:

Post a Comment