Sunday, April 13, 2008

Study Abroad Japan: How to sort your garbage when you live in Japan

Photo: A guide to sorting your garbage

Sorting garbage should be a course at school so that we can all do our part to save the environment, maybe it will be soon. Japan is very advanced when it comes to recycling household waste and when you live in Japan you have to learn how to sort your garbage Japanese style. It takes some time to get use to but will make your life easier in the long run.

Garbage in Japan is broadly sorted into four categories 1. Combustible (or burnable waste,eg household food scraps), 2. Incombustible (non burnable waste, eg, scissors, broken glass, batteries, fluorescent tubes,etc) and 3. Plastic containers and wrapping (pura) eg, potato chip bags, plastic bags, plastic containers and styro foam and 4 Recycle, eg, newspaper, tissue boxes and magazines.

As of April 1st many local councils have changed their garbage collection dates and garbage sorting system. The new system extends the collection days from four a week to five and involves more planning and work by the householder, for example, removing metal staples from magazines and sorting recycled materials into separate piles of newspapers, tissue boxes and magazines. In Japan you can't put out your rubbish early, only at the set times and if you put out your garbage on the wrong day the collection company with put a sticker on your bag and not collect it.

Your neighbours are very concerned about garbage collection and will often check your garbage to check that you have done it correctly. My old landlord use to sift through all tenants garbage on the front step of the apartment block each night and my neighbours in the street often returned tenants garbage to their apartments if was not correct. So beware that garbage recycling is taken very seriously in Japan and once you put your garbage out it is not private but public property. It is to your advantage to learn the system quickly to reduce any unnecessary stress.

In Japan garbage is put into plastic bags and left on the street at a designated place and covered with a heavy duty net (mostly blue) cover to stop crows from eating it. Every house owner in an area has to take turns putting out the net everyday the garbage is collected (up to five days a week) . That means getting up early before the collection time and tying it up. After collection you have to untie the net and return it to your house and do it all again the next collection day. The nets are sprayed by the garbage collection company with a chemical to kill germs so its best to handle the net with gloves.

Best thing to do if your not sure is to ask. It will save you stress of working out what to do if your neighbour comes knocking on your door with your garbage.

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