What’s the Procedure for Garbage Disposal in Tokyo?

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     If there’s one thing that can be confusing for almost any foreigner living in Japan, it’s the meticulous system of garbage collection prevalent throughout the country. Especially coming from a country like the United States, where garbage separation is a very funny joke, learning how to abide by the rules can be a major pain in the neck. However, with this article, I hope to illuminate some of the mysteries and make your job a little bit easier on Garbage Day.

What are the categories?

The major categories of garbage are Combustible (moeru 燃える), Non-Combustible (moenai 燃えない), and Recyclables. Recyclables are also split up into a few different groups, with those groups being paper (books and cardboard), PET Bottles, Cans, and glass bottles.

These different categories are generally collected on different days, though glass bottles and cans are often collected together. The exact days vary by ward, but there are generally two days a week where combustibles are taken, and then one day a week for everything else. In some wards, Recyclables may only be taken every other week, so it is important to consult the moving-in documents from your ward office to be sure. If you do not have these documents, you can always get an additional copy of the garbage schedule from any branch of the ward office; in addition, many garbage collection areas will have a sign listing the local schedule. 

Photo from Shinjuku City

Follow the procedure!

     Different buildings and wards will have different procedures for trash disposal. For instance, some buildings/wards will require that all trash be covered by lids or nets, to prevent crows from getting into it. These procedures are important and pretty strictly enforced, so be careful! Garbage trucks have been known to ignore trash that has not been placed properly. It’s also important to sort your trash properly; while some wards are more strict than others, you can get your apartment building (and yourself) into trouble by not sorting the garbage properly, and it’s generally better not to take the risk.

Additionally, certain wards will only allow certain types of bags for different categories of trash, though clear plastic bags are nearly always acceptable and available for purchase pretty much everywhere.

Oversize Garbage

One of the most confusing things to take care of in Tokyo is oversize garbage. However, the protocols are largely the same in each ward. The first step is to call the local garbage collection office; for Shinjuku, the numbers can be found at this link. If you can read Japanese, you can also make reservation through this website.

Screenshot m Shinjuku City

Once you have called and set up a reservation, you need to buy a number of oversize garbage stamps equal to what you are told by the office; these stamps can be purchased from any local convenience store. However, please note that the convenience store will only sell stamps for the ward in which they reside; as such, you must buy from convenience stores in the same area as your home, or the whole thing will be for naught.

Once you have purchased the stickers, you affix them to your oversize garbage, and when the day comes, you set it outside prior to your collection time. It’s a little bit of a runaround, but it can be worth it to clear the unwanted trash from your place of residence.

Photo from Shinjuku City

List of Oversize Garbage Stamps Selling Convenience Stores in Shinjuku

  • Family Mart  ファミリーマート
  • Lawson  ローソン
  • Seven Eleven セブン・イレブン
  • Mini Store  ミニストップ
  • sunkus サンクス
  • Daily Store デイリーストア
  • Popular  ポプラ

Oversize Garabage Stamps

     Usually, there are two kinds of stamps available in each convenience store: Type A (200 yen) and Type B (300 yen). You can ask the local garbage collection office by phone call about how much of stamps you need in total for whatever you want to dispose. Again, if you can read Japanese, this list also informs you how many stamps you will need to get rid of certain type of oversize garbage in Shinjuku.

Photo from Shinjuku City

     With this, you should be prepared for whatever garbage your way comes; once again, it is important to check for the specifics at your ward office (or their website, if they have one.) Now go out there and kick it to the curb!

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