Throwing something away in Japan can be quite a task. It isn't that Japan isn't a wasteful country; Japan, the home of the individually wrapped sweets in a paper wrapped box which is gift wrapped, put in a decorative paper bag and then placed in a plastic bag to protect the... you get the point.
When I lived in the countryside for three years there was more space and therefore more of the separating was left up to people to do curbside. In Tokyo, the streets often aren't wide enough to accommodate separate bins for each of the categories of garbage, so we're allowed to mix some types of rubbish which will be separated out at a processing facility.
"How many categories of garbage can there possible be?", you wonder. Well, where I used to live there were sixteen. Yup. Sixteen. 16. Let's see if I can name them.
1. Raw. (kitchen waste)
2. Aluminum. (soda cans, canned goods)
3. Steel. (some foods/ drinks are packed in steel)
4. PET. (plastic drink bottles)
5. Cardboard. (boxes)
6. Paper. (newspaper)
7. Dangerous. (batteries, light bulbs)
8. Clear glass. (drink bottles, etc)
9. Brown glass. (beer bottles, etc)
10. Other colored glass. (green bottles, etc.)
11. White Styrofoam. (food trays)
12. Other non-burnable. (misc. plastic, metal)
13. Over-sized. (appliances, furniture)
I can’t remember the rest right now (it was a lot to keep track of then as well). The pick up days of the different categories varied- some once or twice a week, some once a month and some only a couple of times per year. It seemed like I was always preparing some type of garbage for disposal and running it to the collection site. Yeah, each of these categories even has a certain way the items have to be cleaned and bundled.
The real kick in the face has to do with the timing of the disposal. One has to bring the items separated and prepared appropriately to the collection site (usually one or two per neighbourhood) by 8:00 in the morning on the day of the collection. “Oh, I’ll just drop it off on my evening walk so I don’t have to bother with it in the morning” , you suggest. Don’t even think about it. It must be dropped off on the morning of collection and by 8:00. In addition to appearing to want to make the process of taking out the trash as inconvenient as possible, the powers that be also have fears of animals getting into the rubbish during the night. (When was the last time a crow had a go at a washed and regulation twine bound white Styrofoam food tray?)
Night before garbage drop offs are a declaration of war.
People in this peaceful country have been KILLED by neighbours in disputes over garbage. I guess tentions run high when keeping track of the garbage is such a pain and then some ne'r-do-well comes along flaunting his rebellion by casually tossing his unbound, unwashed and unregulation cut milk cartons before the appointed time when you are some housewife who is going bald due to the stress of keeping in line with all of the trash rules.
Why am I going on about garbage anyway? Right. When I moved into my new place here in Tokyo in June, I had to buy a couple of essentials- refriderator, washer... what wasn't essential was the cutest three-bin stacked garbage can that cost $240 that I saw in a department store. Needless to say, I did without. Since I moved in I have had two garbage bags sitting in a cardboard box next to my fridge serving as a trash can. Classy.
Garbage disposal is much easier in Toyko. All you have to remember is three days (burnable, non-burnable and recyclable) and separate the trash accordingly. To help me with these three catagories was a lovely garbage can in a department store. But, alas, I have had to give up my dream of a life together with that lovely, sleek, designer receptical. I broke down last week and bought a cheap plastic number who called my name as I walked by in a discount store. I feel like I have cheated on my true love, but alas, she was in a class above me.
And anyway, I was having guests for dinner and the thought of them being welcomed by my cardboard box and trash bag contraption pushed me into action.
Happy tossing. I'm talking about throwing away the trash, Brits.