Trash talk: A guide to garbage disposal in Japan

By Liam Carrigan

It’s fair to say that a lot has changed since I moved away from Osaka to my new home in Nagano. It’s a lot quieter, it’s a lot less stressful and I have more money in the bank at the end of the month. However, it’s not without its challenges, either.

One challenge I hadn’t anticipated — and on reflection, it seems embarrassingly obvious — was the simple notion of taking out my garbage.

Now, in Osaka, it was simple. There was a large dumpster on the ground floor of our apartment building and any time (day or night), we could simply take our bags of rubbish there, throw them inside and they would be collected within a day or two.

Sorting out your trash into different types, using specific bags and being sure to put it out on the right day and time were simply not considerations then. It was simple and straightforward.

I didn’t realize, however, that this is very much the exception rather than the rule. For several decades now, Japan has been a world leader in encouraging its citizens to recycle as much of their waste as they can.

A trash recycling area at a highway rest stop in Japan Photo: G Witteveen

Every city in every prefecture has its own regulations and rules for sorting out the trash but almost everywhere in Japan takes a far more regimented approach to recycling than Osaka.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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Nice column Liam! I live in Kyushu and trash disposal here are only separated in 3 categories. I didn't know the prefectures have kind of like that one in Nagano, more than 5 or 6. I'm not against the trash be separated to recycling and I don't think it's uncomfortable to separate them. We have to replace to recycle to other stuffs and finally give them back to nature, or we humans also will be inside of a only one plastic bag trash.

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In Sendai you have to buy special bags for the burnable and plastic waste, but there is no limit to the number of bags you can buy. If there were I can imagine even more rubbish being thrown away in the street than there is already.

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Japan produces a lot of waste with its love of packaging, so its only fair. The problem so is that this recycling tends to let people forget the only way to be eco-friendly: which is to reduce the amount of trash, including recycable ones!

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