Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Rubbish !

This was my reaction when our local friend first told us about the Garbage Segregation and Disposal system in Japan.

Like all other things in Japan, even Garbage disposal has a very systematic procedure. I am sure all first time visitors to Japan are often surprised at the lack of garbage bins at the roadside. I too had felt the same way on my first trip to Japan. It has a reason and it did not take me long to realize that. Each and every piece of rubbish has its own classification.  Garbage is either recyclable, non recyclable, burnable, non burnable, and so on. Each and every piece of garbage has to be segregated into these categories. It does not end at segregation. The collection of garbage is also organized according to these categories. For instance: Burnable garbage is collected twice a week and recyclable plastic is collected once a week. Specific dates in a month are  fixed for collecting the other categories of garbage. Certain garbage like dry cell batteries are collected only twice a year whereas large items like pieces of furniture etc are collected only by arrangement. When we moved into our home, the real estate agent gave us a detailed calendar published by the Iwaki City Hall . It has the days of garbage collection marked in different colours as per the colour coding for the garbage separation.

This was not all. We also got a Iwaki City Rubbish Separation Guide (in English) from the Iwaki City Hall when we had gone there. This has detailed information on what garbage qualifies under which category !

There is also a specific size of transparent plastic bag in which the garbage needs to be put and then put out for collection on the indicated day for that category. These bags are easily available at the department stores and are called “ Gomi Bukkuro”. “Gomi” means garbage and “Bukkuro” means bag in Japan.

If you thought this was easy then there is more in store. There are strict instructions on how the garbage needs to be separated, cleaned and disposed off.  In case of recyclable plastic containers, milk cartons etc, we need to also clean them and dry them before putting in the garbage bags. Milk cartons need to be cut in a particular shape and separated from other paper and cardboard. Caps of pet bottles need to disposed off in recyclable plastic whereas the bottle itself needs to be stripped of any labels, etc and crushed before disposing under the category Cans and Pet Bottles. Glass bottles and jars are collected separately. But broken glass needs to be categorized as Unburnable rubbish. This are just few instances of garbage separation. Initially I would check each and every item with the rubbish separation guide to ensure that I was disposing it off correctly. But now I have mastered it and my mind is so tuned to it that I know what goes where and when ! Every household in Japan has atleast 3 garbage bins so that the garbage is segregated right at the time when being disposed off. It sure saves a lot of time and effort. Even the department stores, convenience stores have 3-4 garbage bins outside.

On the day of collection, the plastic bags containing the garbage have to be put out in the designated location. It is advised that the garbage should be put out by 8.30 am because after 8.30 am the collection vehicle could come at anytime. If you miss the day, then you need to treasure your garbage till the next collection day. If by mistake you put out the wrong type of garbage on a collection day, then be prepared to bring back your garbage after the collection vehicle has collected all the other garbage and left your garbage bag in its place. That is not the end of it, if your garbage bag has even a small piece of a different kind of garbage the collection vehicle does not collect that bag. It does not stop at the wrong classification ; the garbage is not collected even if the disposal is not proper such as the recyclable plastic containers are dirty and you haven’t washed and dried it before disposing. Each time we put the garbage, I check the spot to ensure that my garbage bags have been collected.

Though I had initially hated the idea of such detailed garbage separation, I must say I now appreciate that the Japanese government has thought of this and implemented it in such a strict manner. In my view this is a great way of doing something for the ecology rather than just using eco friendly shopping bags. If all the countries had adopted this model , the world would have been a more cleaner and hygienic place to live in.

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