Trash in Japan

Throwing away things in Japan is more of a hassle than in America or other countries, but is a necessary part of living in Japan. There are three categories to keep in mind: burnable trash, non-burnable trash, and recyclables. Remember that while it may take a few more minutes on your part, you will be helping out the trash workers.

Trash Collection Site
Ask your neighbors about the location of the nearest trash collection site, and be sure to take out your garbage before 8am on collection days. There is usually a net at the site to keep crows from breaking into the garbage, so make sure that your garbage is protected by the net.

Burnable Trash 燃えるゴミ moeru gomi
This includes paper, kitchen scraps…the majority of your garbage, really. Japan burns much of its trash, so it’s important to separate items such as broken plates or aluminum cans from this category. Burnable trash is usually collected twice a week.

Non-Burnable Trash 燃えないゴミ moenai gomi
This includes ceramics and metals, so it’s not as large of a category. Usually this trash is picked up once a week. If you have something large you want to throw away, like furniture or a bicycle, you’ll have to call city hall and ask for a pick-up, for a fee. If you get a new appliance, such as a refrigerator, the deliverers will usually carry the old one away, in my experience.

Recycling しげんごみ shigen gomi
All of your recyclable materials. This is where things can get complicated. Make sure everything is separated into paper, plastics (sometimes PET Bottles have a separate bag), aluminum cans, and cardboard. With PET Bottles, you may have to take the wrapping and cap off the bottle. You will have to flatten all cardboard and tie the different sheets together. Collection times are also a bit more erratic. In my area, plastic is collected the first four Mondays of the month, and all recycling is collected the second and fourth Mondays. Check with your neighbors and city hall to check the collection times.

A guide (in Japanese) to symbols on drink containers
Trash Collection information from the Tokyo International Communication Committee