Ooookay. Mundane stuff coming up. You’ve been warned.
I’m trying to come up with practical advice to write about and hit upon this one because today is Garbage Day in my part of the world.
Each city or township in Japan has different rules for garbage collection. As such, Sapporo’s is going to be different than Kitahiroshima Township’s. You’ll notice this most especially when you walk around residential areas and see the colorful bags at the dumping sites. You really can’t miss them. The garbage disposal spots usually have scary black crows hovering about, maliciously cawing any time they see a person carrying a plastic trash bag so early in the morning. And trust me, those crows are freaking scary, yo!
Aside from the crows, though, getting rid of your garbage in Japan is a complicated process. I’ll just give you an example from my experience here in Kitahiroshima.
To start with, you need to have different types of garbage bags.
Yes, that’s right. You need to have special bags just to throw away your trash. The reasoning behind that is taxes. In a way, when you buy garbage bags from the store, you are indirectly paying your waste management taxes to the city.
For Kitahiroshima, we have different kinds:
Normal garbage is disposed of in pink plastic bags. All the following bags come in different sizes, from 3kg to 20kg. For the pink ones, I usually get the 10kg bag–enough for a week or two’s worth of garbage.
Pink bags can also mean dangerous goods like broken glass or old, rusted knives. The only thing is, you have to write 危険 (kiken) or dangerous on the bag to let the garbage collectors know they’re dealing with something that could potentially hurt them.
Our town has special yellow ones for “raw” garbage. Think organic materials used for biofuels. I’m actually quite proud of Kitahiroshima for this idea. I think it’s wonderful that we’re trying to use garbage in a more creative way to protect the environment.
I get the smaller 3-kg bag because this one stinks the most when it’s in the kitchen. It’s all the organic ones that break down easily, which explains the smell. I want to get rid of this as soon as it’s full.
The third one–in blue–is all other miscellaneous stuff. In this bag, I dump clothing, string, small electronic goods, etc. This one takes a while to fill up because I don’t really have a lot of this type of garbage to get rid of.
The clear plastic bags are meant for recyclables, paper, and plastic. Recyclables are your usual bottles, aluminum, or plastic bottles. Plastics are the wrappings of usual packages. I notice that this one fills up quickly, too.
Got all that?
Yeah, I know.
Like I said, it’s all very complicated. The things I have to do just to get rid of trash:
-I have to read the Japanese instructions written on the bag itself to make sure I did everything I could to dispose trash properly.
-I have to wash my plastic receptacles and packaging before I dump it. Think about that: I wash my garbage.
-I have to separate the vegetable cuttings from regular garbage.
-I have to check online whether my garbage should go in the pink or clear bag.
-I have to dismantle the cardboard boxes, gather them all up, and tie them up with a string.
-I have to make sure the crows don’t get into the bags.
-I have to wake up early and get it out there before 8:30 am so the garbage trucks can collect the trash.
But to be honest, I’ve been living here so long that it’s actually not bad anymore. I don’t think of it as being inconvenient. I think of it as me doing my part to be environmentally responsible. I want to believe that there’s a legitimate reason why Japanese citizens have to separate garbage into categories. Some trash can be recycled and re-used. Some can be safely disposed of and will actually benefit the earth if they’re used as natural fertilizers. Some are incinerated, which probably contributes to air pollution. Some, like electronic goods, are broken down into their basic components to make sure they’re not leaking unsafe chemicals into the earth.
It makes you think.
When I first came to Japan, I found the whole process really stupid and I complained a lot about it. These days, though, every time I have to throw something away, I’m not doing it mindlessly and thoughtlessly. Every “inconvenience” means I’m being reminded of my responsibility to take care of the earth.
I think that’s a very good thing.