Here in Tokyo, trash disposal is an extremely important part of daily life. When you are out and about you will see that highly organized trash systems are in place in every shop, cafe, and sidewalk. Space is at a premium so responsible trash disposal is a must. In fact, if you are one of the few being lazy and not following the rules to a T, you'll seriously lose face and supposedly the neighborhood trash monitor (grandma lady) will call you out in front of everyone (I haven't seen it but I read that somewhere!).
We will NOT be those gaijin who don't know how to do Japan's most basic chore!
A little background:
Tokyo is split into 23 wards. Water, fire services, and sewage are examples of some of the services rendered to Tokyo as a whole. The trash, however, is handled by the metropolitan government in each ward. So, while we only moved a 20-minute walk down the road, our new apartment is in Shibuya-ku while our old apartment was in Meguro-ku. This means that the trash system differs.
After studying the two trash systems side-by-side, I saw that one big difference is the way they treat their plastics. In Japan, everything comes wrapped in plastic, in a plastic bag, possibly in a larger, carrying plastic bag. We have so much plastic waste! Coming from California, land of the reusable shopping bag, it hurts a little every time I walk away with more. And to my chagrin, while the plastics were considered recyclable in Meguro-ku, they are considered combustible waste here in Shibuya-ku. That means that all of the plastics from our yummy conbini bentos, the plastic wrapping on our chopsticks, and all of our many, many plastic bags will be going to waste. Sigh.
Here's a look at our new trash system:
Notice that there are many items in each category (combustible, non-combustible, recyclable, etc.) and each of these has its own dumpster in our Trash Room. You must package all of your paper together, your kitchen waste together, your plastics together, your leather together, etc. which then goes into the appropriate dumpster. Everything has to go in a large, clear, plastic bag so that the trash collectors can put it into the perfect pile once they take it back to their sorting and disposal grounds.
It's a lot of work but I think we are getting the hang of it. Be prepared to put your trash in the proper spot when you come for a visit!