Coming to Japan as a tourist, you get to experience all the fun and interesting parts of Japan. When it’s finally time to live here, there are numerous things to learn and get used to and one of them is how to throw trash away. There are a lot of different steps and it can get confusing, but overall, taking the time to follow the rules is not only the right thing to do but also good for the environment. Here is a quick and simple guide about how to throw garbage away and explaining any misunderstandings.
Burnable Trash 燃えるゴミ
What is considered burnable trash is often misunderstood. We often think about what we should/shouldn’t burn, so many people have this misconception that burnable trash is only food waste, paper, clothes, etc. In reality, styrofoam, plastic, and rubber products also count as burnable trash. A good way to think about it is items made from plastic will melt but items made from metal, glass, and ceramic won’t, so these would count as nonburnable trash.
In what throw your burnable trash away depends on your ward or city. Some are allowed to put it in any transparent bag, but other areas require a specific “trash bag” that you can buy from the local convenience store or supermarket.
- soiled paper
- bags, shoes, clothes
- small branches
- cooking oil (after hardened)
- kitchen waste (first drain any liquid)
Non-Burnable Trash 燃えないゴミ
Non-burnable trash is usually trash that is physically burnable or dangerous if burned. This includes metal, glass, ceramics, batteries, spray cans, etc.
Disposal of non-burnable trash is the same as burnable trash and which bag to use also depends on your ward or city. If your ward doesn’t require a special “trash bag” but you ran out of supermarket plastic bags, you can buy transparent bags at a 100 yen shop as well.
- small electronic appliances (no bigger than 30cm any side)
- ceramics & pottery
- light bulbs
For any recyclable items, such as newspapers, plastic bottles, and cans, you throw away separately. You would put each category in a separate bag before throwing out. For plastic bottles, ideally, you would rinse the inside and throw the cap away separately. For paper trash such as newspapers, magazines, and cardboards, you would tie them up with a string and throw it out.
- Plastic Bottles
- Glass Bottles
- Gas Cans
- Newspapers, magazines, cardboards
Large Trash 粗大ゴミ
Any item that’s longer than 30cm on any side is considered large trash. This includes microwaves, sofa, bed, drawers, chairs, etc. Large trash is handled completely differently. It isn’t picked up on a regular basis and an appointment has to be made either by phone or the web. While making the appointment, you specify what type of items you want to throw away and have to buy special “large trash” stickers from the convenience store and paste it onto the item before having it taken out.
Large Electronic Trash
Large electronic trash such as air conditioner, TV, refrigerator, and washing machine are handled differently. As part of the Home Appliance Recycling Law in Japan, these items cannot be trashed directly and must be recycled at a recycling center. Therefore, the local trash collection company cannot take these items and you would have to make an appointment with the Home Electronics Recycling Center ( 家電リサイクル受付センター ).
It can get very expensive just to throw these items away. Here is a rough estimate of how much it can cost in Tokyo (source):
- TV : 1,800 – 3,600 yen
- AC : 1,400 – 10,000 yen
- Refrigerator: 3,600 – 6,100 yen
- Washing Machine: 2,500 – 3,300 yen
The prices may seem outrageous, but these prices are real. In addition to the recycling price, there is also a transportation fee which is also a couple 1000 yen. This is why most people try to give these items away for free or sell them if it’s in good condition. There are many Facebook groups like Sayonara Sales and Mottainai Japan where these exchanges can happen, so we recommend giving it away if possible!
When do I Throw My Trash Away?
Most mansions and apartments have a specified container outside near the building where you can put your trash in. If your building doesn’t have one, then there is either a net or a specific area for the trash.
When your trash is collected is different for every street. Usually, it’s written online for your city/ward. In Google, you can try typing “<area name> ゴミ収集日” and it should be one of the first results. In the website, the schedule should be shown for every chome (ex: 渋谷区上原 １丁目). The frequency of pick up for each type of trash should be close to this:
- combustible (twice a week)
- incombustible (once/twice a month)
- recyclable (once a week)
- large trash (appointment only)
Here are some useful Japanese words to look for:
|資源||しげん||shigen||resource (refers to recyclable trash)|
|粗大ごみ||そだいごみ||sodai gomi||large trash|
|ペットボトル||ぺっとぼとる||betto botoru||plastic bottle|
|缶、びん||かん、びん||kan, bin||cans, bottles|