Refuse and Recycling

Prior to coming to Japan, you might have thought that life’s most complicated challenge was the determination of the meaning of life, itself. Once you have lived in Japan, you will undoubtedly realize that the most challenging aspect of life is actually learning how to dispose of your trash in Japan.

If you are planning to rent or purchase property in Japan, you should know that things are a little different than in most other countries when it comes to getting rid of your garbage. Firstly, there is no garbage bill in the traditional sense of the word. You purchase bags at your local grocery stores or convenience stores that are unique to your district and unique to the type of trash you intend to get rid of.

For instance, if you are in the Onojo area, bags are a tan color with either a red, green, blue, or black label. Red is for burnable garbage. Green is for the plastic bottles that juice, soda pop, etc. comes in (referred to in Japan as PET bottles). Blue labeled bags are for aluminum cans, etc.. Black labeled bags are for branches, leaves, weeds and other yard work type items.

Once you have that figured out, you will need to acquire the local recycling calendar for the area or neighborhood that you are in. As a general rule, burnable trash gets picked up twice a week while recyclable items alternate weekly between PET bottles and cans. Other, larger, household items that can be thrown away will have specific dates assigned to them throughout the year and you can purchase labels from your local city government office to affix to them.

On the surface, this may seem slightly daunting for something as simple as taking out the trash. However, it is a truly organized system…once you figure it out. The calendar for my neighborhood’s recycling is extremely detailed and can vary from week to week. I took one look at it and felt like I needed a secret decoder ring and a magnifying glass. Thankfully, my ever efficient wife put the whole thing into a calendar application so that I don’t forget or lose track.

Incidentally, if you place the wrong item in the wrong bag or take the wrong bag out on the wrong day, the collectors will helpfully place a sticker on the bag detailing your error and leave it behind. Here’s where I would like to give you a word of caution: if you are renting an apartment and consistently fail to manage this process properly, your neighbors will complain to the property management and you will be contacted. Don’t take it personally. Accept it as a fact of life and remedy the situation. If you rent or purchase through our offices, we can assist you with determining the recycling schedule for your area.

There you have it. In time, we will post more specific guides and information related to this for each of the areas that we operate in. Happy recycling!