Monday, August 22, 2011
Things I Miss: Garbage Services
In Oregon, we have ways of separating our trash. In my neighborhood, the blue bin is for recycling, the gray bin is for trash, and the green bin is for natural waste (tree branches, lawn clippings, etc). We even have a little red bin that we put out once a month with all the glass in it. Once a week, we put all the bins out on the sidewalk and the garbage man empties them. Rinse, repeat.
In Japan, there is a similar system. It shares many of the same qualities but is mired in convoluted rules and regulations. In Oregon, four categories seemed to be enough. In Japan, categories for trash can range from 10 to 34. You have specific procedures for brown bottles, PET bottles (plastic bottles like the ones soda comes in), burnable trash, non-burnable trash, used electronics, furniture, small metals, used cloth, etc.
Three times every week, the garbage man comes to my complex. We do not have bins here, in my village. Everyone carries their trash to a cage located far enough from all of the houses as to avoid the wafting smell, and the garbage man collects it from there. Monday and Thursday are for burnable trash, and alternating Fridays are for recycling and electronics/furniture/household objects. I usually run into the cage as fast as I can and heap my garbage onto the pile. If I'm fast enough, I can run away before the swarm of flies envelops my body and carries me away.
It's not over yet. I can't just put my trash in a plastic bag. I purchase special bags from my local convenience store. They are cheap and come in a variety of colors to help identify the type of garbage within. Red bags are for combustibles, blue bags for non-combustibles. Frankly, compared to some other places in Japan, I'm lucky. I don't have nearly as many categories as some places, although you can see from the picture at the bottom of this post that there are many.
If you have large objects, like old furniture or washing machines, that can't be thrown away in bags, you can call a trash collection service. In Oregon, we would have to drive our old furniture to the dump ourselves, so I actually prefer this. In fact, I believe the annoyance of sorting garbage is far outweighed by the good this practices does for the environment. "In the last four years, Kamikatsu has halved the amount of incinerator-bound garbage and raised its recycled waste to 80 percent, town officials said. Each household now has a subsidized garbage disposal unit that recycles raw garbage into compost." That's pretty cool.
I try my best to divide my garbage according to the laws here, but it's hard when everything's written in Japanese and you're living alone. Sometimes, the garbage men will leave bags of garbage at the cage if they feel the bag was not filled with the correct category of trash. I guess it's meant to encourage you to do it correctly, because otherwise your incorrectly-packaged trash will fill up the cage and your neighbors will descend on you like an angry mob.