How does Japan segregate its garbage?
The world is increasingly investing in efficient garbage disposal mechanisms as the garbage situation in our day to day lives has reached an unprecedented level. Not just the volume of garbage, but also the type of garbage makes governments to think of safe ways of disposal. Plastics and other non-biodegradable materials have made it essential for garbage sorting. Japan has a detailed and sometimes complex garbage disposal system. Often, it would be overwhelming for a foreigner coming to Japan to come to terms with the detailed disposal procedure.
Typically, across Japan, garbage needs to be sorted into the categories of “Burnable”, “Non-Burnable”, “Burnable Hazardous Waste” and “Large-sized waste”. Although, each prefecture could have their own classification, but almost everywhere, burnable and non-burnable garbage have to be separated from each other. What constitutes burnable and non-burnable can be quite confusing and should be confirmed at the local ward office or at the website of your community. Always, ask your landlord or your rental agency for garbage classification and disposal schedule.
There are designated garbage bags for each type of garbage. They can be purchased at supermarkets, convenience stores or 100-yen stores. They are color coded and vary from ward to ward. So, it is best to check with your landlord for the correct set of garbage bags to be used. These bags need to be tied up and disposed at the designed garbage disposal places for collection by the municipal staff.
Unfortunately, I do not know enough to cover everything about garbage disposal in Japan. There are other finer details such one should dispose the caps, labels and the main bottle separately (in different colour coded bags) for all used bottles. Although, I respected their rules during my stay I was often confused and frustrated with the garbage disposal rules. But there is justification to this complex garbage disposal system of Japan. Apparently, the government invests a lot of money and resources to properly recycle the garbage across Japan. The sorted out garbage goes through several steps of recycling at the various recycling centres. Hence, any mismatch in the garbage sorting leads to extra effort for their staff and possible malfunctioning of their machines.
I once heard a story from my friend about a guy who was offered punishment by the local ward office for being a serial offender of sorting garbage incorrectly. His punishment was to pay a fine, attend counseling for one day and take a tour of the garbage recycling unit! You sure wouldn’t want to be that guy.