Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Living in Japan - Trash!

Trash! definitely needs an exclamation mark next to it in the title because it's really so exceptional what they do in Japan and it's something we have to be conscious of daily (like the cicadas, right now).

One of the reasons we love Japan is how clean it is. This is important when you have little kids who like to put everything in their mouths and touch everything when you go into a public restroom - ICK! The cleanliness in Japan is the polar opposite of that in Peru. Where we lived (Miraflores), a small affluent neighborhood in Lima, there were "human street sweepers" that kept the neighborhood relatively clean, but people would always let their dog poop and not clean it up and just throw trash on the ground without blinking an eye. Once you got out of the city or into some of the seedier parts of the city, there is trash everywhere - littering the streets and sometimes beautiful landscape or left burning in piles.

Again, when I write these Living in Japan blog series, I do not know everything. I will try not to post incorrect information on here, but it is my perspective and understanding of the culture and daily life. Mind you, I do not speak or read in Japanese.

Here's a picture of the English trash pick up flyer:
As you can see for yourself, it's pretty detailed. It's nice to feel that almost nothing goes to a landfill and sits, not that there is much space in Japan for that anyways. Normal trash gets burned at really high temperatures which supposedly doesn't have an detrimental effect on the environment because the temperature is so high. I tried to find information on this in English and failed.

Every day of the week, something gets picked up - burnable, non-burnable, PET and glass (bottles, glass, cans) and as of this past spring, they added a Plastics pick up - which takes care of many "packaging plastics" - plastic wrap, food containers, etc. There's also corregated cardboard pick-up every other week; it's important to plan your IKEA trips close to these days!

It takes a little getting used to, but when we were in the States it felt weird to just throw everything away (we were in a rental with no recycling directions or receptacles). Because right now when we compost too (we have a little yard), we have almost no burnable trash, everything is recyclable! And trash is serious business. Everyone pretty much complies, but there are normally video cameras at the gomi areas of apartment buildings, like ours to catch any offenders.

The only negative part of "Trash! in Japan" is that it is very hard to find trash cans out and about. Train stations have trash cans and places for plastics and bottles, but parks and other public areas do not. This is extra tricky when you are out with little kids and have paper wrappings or gasp! a stinky diaper and the stroller is already packed to the hills.

Oh, I take that back, there is one more negative aspect of trash in Japan. It is hard to get rid of things, especially large items. There are very few donation places (even with a great need in the North still) to get rid of large items, like a couch, baby toys or even baby clothes. In order to get rid of something that does not fall under the categories of the flyer, (I think) you need to call the city and you have to pay and they put a special sticker on it for pick up. Luckily, the school will take care of it for us, but we still need to pay, and get it to campus. It does make you think of your purchases, which is good. There is a lot of sharing and passing down of items which has been nice, since we haven't really bought ANYTHING for Lola, but there aren't any other baby girls on the Canadian Academy horizon, so I'm not sure what we'll do with all this "stuff" when we're done.

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