Very few people here have room to store a full week’s trash so garbage collection happens much more frequently than it does at home. When we moved into the apartment, we were presented with a large sheet of instructions entitled Disposal of Household Garbage which I keep posted on the kitchen wall. It explains how to correctly sort garbage and when to put various types out for collection.
The majority of our garbage falls into the burnable category which is collected three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This includes kitchen refuse, plastics and waste paper as well as rubber and leather products such as old shoes. This must be put out in special bags with green writing on them that are specified by the Funabashi municipal government. They are available at the grocery stores and convenience stores. The garbage is supposed to be taken out to specified collection areas by 8:30 a.m. on collection days only. We’re fortunate to have a collection area at the side of our building. Some of the people in the little side streets have to bring their garbage out to our street for collection but no one has to go far. At the collection site, the trash is put under green netting to keep the large black birds that share the neighbourhood with us from scattering it around. The bright blue and yellow garbage truck comes by around 9:30 a.m. with an electronic bell jangling and a recorded message blaring, presumably to remind those who’ve forgotten to take their garbage out. The only word I recognize is kudasai, or please.
Non-burnable garbage is collected once a month. According to the instruction sheet, this happens on “the very first week of Wed”. Interpreting Japanese English can be fun! I presume that this means the first Wed. of each month but, since I haven’t had to take advantage of this yet, I’m not entirely sure. Non-burnable garbage includes things like china and glass, batteries, light bulbs, items with metal parts and small household electronic appliances.
Recyclable garbage is collected every Tuesday. This is mainly glass bottles and steel or aluminum cans. These are deposited in sacks at the same collection sites as the burnable garbage. They are also supposed to be placed there by 8:30 a.m. but the Japanese rise early and we’ve heard them banging and clanging below our window as early as 5:00!
Garbage with value is collected every Thursday. This includes newspapers, magazines and cardboard boxes which must be tied in bundles, old clothes which must be in plastic bags to keep moisture out and milk cartons which must be washed, unfolded and bundled. Since milk is only sold in 1 litre cardboard cartons, we go through lots of those.
Fortunately, we use very few plastic recyclable bottles such as pop bottles as there are only a few places to dispose of these and a lot of them end up in the burnable garbage. They can be taken to compressor-equipped recycling boxes at municipal halls and other designated spots or dropped off at some liquor stores.
Pick up can be arranged for some large items such as furniture by calling the municipal government information centre but service is only available in Japanese. Fortunately, the only piece of furniture that we actually own is the small computer desk that we bought at the nearby recycle store. When our time here is done, we’ll either pass it on to one of our colleagues or take it back there. We do see a little truck pass by now and then with old televisions, bicycles and whatnot in the back. It slowly cruises the streets with a recorded message blaring so I presume it’s picking up discarded items but I understand that this is not a city service.
Also, on Friday mornings, a team of young mentally disabled adults makes their way through the neighbourhood picking up bundles that appear to be magazines and catalogues. They are accompanied by a truck and at least one supervisor walks with them. I love watching them as they are such a happy bunch! Rain or shine, we hear them coming as they laugh and shout to one another. As this isn’t listed on the instruction sheet, I’m assuming that it’s also a separate service.
As you can see, figuring out how to dispose of trash is no simple feat and the instruction sheet that we were provided with is very helpful! In a country with this many people and so little space, disposing of garbage efficiently is of major importance.