How to separate garbage in Japan

How is garbage separated in Japan?

One of the things that confuses foreign residents in Japan is how to dispose of garbage. For example, in many states in the U.S., you only need to separate garbage into three categories: “recyclables,” “household garbage,” and “plants and trees”.

In most cities, towns, and villages in Japan, however, garbage is separated into combustible trash such as paper scraps, newspapers and magazines, and plastic, and then disposed of on the designated day. The bags for garbage may also be designated by the municipality.

How to separate and dispose of garbage differs according to each municipality. Some city halls and ward offices distribute pamphlets on garbage disposal rules in English or Chinese for foreign residents in Japan.

In Japan, trash is roughly divided into four categories: combustible trash, noncombustible trash, recyclable trash, and oversized trash. Below is a table to make it easier to see how each garbage is separated! 

General types of garbage
Combustible garbageKitchen garbage, paper waste, clothes, etc.
Non-combustible garbageMetal, glass, ceramics, etc.
Recyclable garbagePlastic bottles, bottles, cans, newspapers, etc.
Oversized garbageLarge furniture, etc.

The main garbage produced at home, such as food scraps and paper waste, is combustible garbage. Non-burnable garbage is metal, glass, and other materials that cannot be recycled. Frying pans, glass cups, etc. fall into this category. In Japan, plastic bottles, bottles, cans, etc. are collected as recyclable garbage and recycled.

Bulky trash includes large furniture and home appliances. However, according to the Home Appliance Recycling Law, which encourages the recycling of home appliances, local governments do not collect home appliances such as air conditioners, televisions, refrigerators, and washing machines.

You will need to pay a recycling fee of around 1,000 to 6,000 yen and have the store you purchased them to collect them, or take them to a “designated pickup site” in your area by yourself.

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Where and when do I dispose of my garbage?

There are two main types of places and methods for putting out garbage: collection sites and door-to-door collection.

Collection sites are mainly located in apartment buildings and condominiums. In less populated areas, they are sometimes set up on the side of the road. Since they are used by residents in common, it is important to keep them clean.

On the other hand, when garbage is put out on the doorstep of each household and collected one by one by cleaning workers, it is called door-to-door collection.

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Garbage is disposed of on the days set by the municipality. For example, combustible garbage is collected on Wednesdays, non-combustible garbage on Fridays, and so on.

Even in the same municipality, the collection day differs depending on the district and address. It is important to know the garbage collection days in your area of residence. Some areas have a garbage collection calendar, which you can get at the municipal office when you move in.

There are many rules and regulations for taking out the garbage in Japan, but once you get used to it, it should be a breeze!