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How to Throw Garbage Properly in Japan


When visiting Japan, do you notice the lack of public bins there? The absence of trash bins is closely tied to the country's waste separation and recycling system. In Japan, individuals are responsible for separating their waste into categories like burnable, non-burnable, and recyclable. Therefore, people are expected to take their waste home and dispose of it properly. While it may seem inconvenient, this system successfully promotes personal responsibility, reduces littering, and ensures that waste is properly sorted for recycling and disposal.

Separating Garbage

Japan is known for its meticulous waste disposal system. Citizens separate and dispose of each category according to specific guidelines to promote recycling and minimize environmental impact. Here's a basic guide:

1. Burnable Waste (もえるごみ - moeru gomi)

Burnable waste refers to waste materials that can be incinerated safely. This category typically includes:

  • Kitchen waste: food scraps, vegetable peelings, cooking oil (absorbed in paper/cloth or solidified), etc.

  • Wood: small wooden items or materials

  • Sanitary products

  • Clothing

  • Paper and plastic items that can’t be recycled

It's important to follow local guidelines and restrictions regarding what is considered burnable waste, as these may vary by municipality.

2. Non-burnable Waste (もえないごみ - Moenai Gomi)

Non-burnable waste typically includes items that can't be burned safely, such as:

  • Glass: bottles, jars, and other glass containers.

  • Metal: cans, aluminum foil, and other metal items.

  • Ceramics: dishes, pottery, and other ceramic products.

3. Recyclable Waste (資源ごみ - Shigen Gomi)

The specific categories of recyclable waste can vary by region, but common items often included in this category are:

  • Plastic Bottles: PET bottles and other plastic containers.

  • Cans: aluminum and steel cans.

  • Paper products: newspapers, magazines, cardboard, and paper packaging.

  • Glass: bottles and jars.

  • Certain plastics: depending on local regulations, specific types of plastics may be recyclable.

Make sure to rinse and clean recyclables before placing them in the appropriate bins or bags. Cans and bottles that are damaged or can’t be cleaned should go into non-burnable waste. Dirty or damaged plastic bottles are considered as burnable waste.

4. Large or Bulky Items (粗大ごみ - Sodai Gomi)

Disposing of large or bulky items in Japan usually involves a specific process. You have to reach out to your local municipality's waste management or environmental services department and inquire about the procedures for disposing of large or bulky items. Usually, you have to pay a fee and schedule a pickup service. Some areas also have designated collection points or facilities for large or bulky items. Check if there are specific locations where you can take these items.

5. Electronic appliances

Electronic appliances such as air conditioners, TVs, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and dryers must be recycled. Contact the store where you purchased the item and arrange a pick up. You will be required to cover both a transportation fee and a recycling fee. If you encounter difficulty finding a facility that accepts your used appliance, please contact the designated organization in the area you live.

6. Hazardous Waste (有害ごみ - Yūgai Gomi)

You have to separate Items like batteries, fluorescent bulbs, certain chemicals, and electronic waste from regular household waste. Take these to designated collection points or follow local guidelines for disposal. For items like batteries, many places in Japan have separate collection programs. Some retailers may also accept used batteries for recycling.

Throwing Garbage

Apartment buildings usually have centralized waste disposal areas or bins. These may be located in a designated space within the building or in a common area outside. Certain buildings offer colored boxes or section labels for recyclable waste to indicate where you should place specific types of garbage. You can directly put cans and glass bottles in those spaces, while papers and cardboards are usually tied together.

You will also need plastic bags to throw small items. Some municipalities allow any transparent or semi-transparent plastic bags, but many ask people to use designated bags. The designated bags for waste disposal are typically color-coded or labeled to help residents differentiate between categories. Here's a general guide:

1. Burnable Waste (もえるごみ - Moeru Gomi)

- Color: Often orange or transparent.

- Look for bags labeled "もえるごみ" or "可燃ごみ."

2. Non-burnable Waste (もえないごみ - Moenai Gomi)

- Color: Usually clear or transparent.

- Bags may be labeled "もえないごみ" or "不燃ごみ."

3. Recyclable Waste (資源ごみ - Shigen Gomi)

- Color: Varies, but often blue or transparent.

- Look for bags labeled "資源ごみ."

The colors can vary between areas, so make sure to check the label. The size also varies, up to 45 liters. You can easily find these bags in convenience stores.

Garbage Collection Schedule

In Japan, various types of waste may be collected on different days. Even if you have already placed your garbage in the designated disposal area, the waste collector won't pick it up unless it's on schedule.

To check your waste collection schedule, you can ask your landlord or visit the official website of your local municipality or city government. Many municipalities provide detailed information about waste collection schedules, including specific collection days for different types of waste. Some municipalities provide residents with an annual or monthly waste collection calendar. This calendar outlines the collection days for different types of waste.

Take a look at this calendar provided by the government of Kodaira-shi, Tokyo.

Based on this calendar, burnable waste is collected twice a week. Recyclable plastic waste is collected once a week, while others such as bottles, cans, and paper products are collected once every two weeks.


If you don't follow the waste disposal rules and guidelines in a particular area, your waste may be left uncollected. It could lead to fines or penalties imposed. To avoid these issues, it's essential to follow local guidelines, use the designated bags for each waste category, and take the time to understand the waste separation requirements in your specific area. This ensures that you contribute to a sustainable and effective waste management system in Japan.

Adjusting to daily life in Japan, such as learning how to properly dispose of garbage, can take time and effort. However, having a supportive employer can significantly ease this transition. At Tokhimo Review, our job review website, we provide insights into how different companies support their employees with practical aspects of daily life. Visit Tokhimo Review today to discover companies who values your well-being and facilitates your adaptation to Japanese customs.





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