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Recycling Garbage Laws

Japan With Kids - Forums: General Discussions: Recycling Garbage Laws
By Cornelia on Tuesday, February 5, 2002 - 5:34 am:

Back on April 1, 2001 Japan adopted a recycling law across the country. Up until now a lot of recycling that affected end consumers was only of the glass/cans/paper variety administered on local levels.

Now, specifically four appliances have been targeted for recycling emphasis.

Air conditioners 3,500
Refrigerators 4,600
Televisions 2,700
Washing machines 2,400

(there is a rumor that computer monitors in particular might be next...)

There is a very good summary in English on this particular law at:

However there seems to be a bit of variety on the local level once again. If anyone has any input on this please add it here. Where do you pay the fee, get the stickers for pick-up whatever? Or do you just carry it to any electronics shop? Or can you still get the ward trash removal to pick it up and pay the fee to them?

By Indo mommy on Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 2:49 pm:

Hi all,

In continuation to the off topic that scott, nancy, yuko started in immunizations..
Just back from a local supermarket. Am from India where even the smallest of bits of garbage can be and is recycled.
Especially plastic. In spite of having so many plastic recycling units, it is such a big problem in India and all over the world. In India plastic bags are banned in some cities. You have to use your own grocery bags.

I wonder how Japan takes care of its plastic waste as there is so much generated everyday. I am amazed to see the amount of waste produced at superstores. The plastic cover for an umbrella is just dumped after one use. One day of rain creates so much plastic waste! Two plastic grocery bags per family everyday..can we just estimate the amount?


By Scott Hancock on Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 3:02 pm:

I do agree with you, Indo. I can give you one bit of good news. At Tsukiji Fish Market, where they accumulate moutains of large styrofoam containers, I recently found the place they melt them down into blocks for recycling.

As for the umbrella covers, I always make a point to take one of the used ones out of the "waste". It usually gets some attention. Maybe we should make signs in Japanese recommending.

My understanding is that household plastic is put in landfill. Anyone have other information?

By Indo mommy on Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 4:37 pm:

ya sure, i know that look. one time when i took a used one, one very sweet elderly lady pointed out that the right ones hung above!

I suppose of the household plastic generated more than 50% would be grocery bags and packings.

if we as ecologically aware parents took it up, we would sure reduce this load. I suppose it would just take one poster campaign for people to be convinced. And here the good thing is, at large, people care deeply for the society. Shouldnt be very difficult.

By Yuko Kubota on Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 5:29 pm:

Whoops, sorry about my first paragraph. I posted that part on the wrong thread.

By Yuko Kubota on Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 5:35 pm:

Gosh, I seem to keep on posting on wrong threads. Appologies to Cornelia and all members of the list. Please ignore my previous post as of 15th 4:29. I'll come back again when I'm not busy.

By Yuko Kubota on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 5:39 pm:

I'm really lousy when it comes to making long stories short, so please forgive me or just ignore my whole post.

I worked as an interpreter several times for NPO study tours in Yokohama based on waste issues.

Based on that knowledge and the knowledge I have as a consumer, waste issues slightly differ depending on the municipal, because it depends on what kind of incinerations and landfill sites you have in your city, as well as how broad and flat your streets are to have enough room to place collective waste.

In any case, I notice that almost every large supermarket today has some kind of deduction if you don't use their plastic bags. Note that in fancy stores like Kinokuniya, National Azabu or Seijo Ishii, they will put the merchandise in your personal shopping bag if you hand them one. OK Supermarket doesn't give away bags in the first place, and you need to buy one if you need it. In other places, just say, "fukuro irimasen (don't need bag)" at the cashier, and they'll often give you a stamp card or a magnetic point card in which you can collect points every time you refuse bags. When you have enough points, you can use them to add to your payment. Sometimes they have a "I don't need a bag" card hanging at the register for you to throw into your cart.

Now, suppose you did use the bag. And even if you didn't, as pointed out, there are many plastic waste you just can't refuse. Not all municipals collect them. For example, in Yokohama, they hadn't started collecting PET bottles until about a couple of years ago.

But public collection is not the only way to recycle. Seven Eleven convenience store has been recycling PET bottles for years, and if you look around carefully, there are plenty of private organizations or voluntary groups collecting recyclable items. In particular, the kodomo-kai (children and parents' group) and roujin-kai (elderly's group) in our district have been collecting newspapers, card board and cloth to raise fund for their group activities. You can get these kind of information at your local ward office (kuyakusho).

However, does recycling solve all the problems? The answer is of course no, because you need a lot of man-power, sources and energy to recycle items to make it into something new. And that something new isn't always utilised in the best way either.

Also, a funny thing. Upon the study tour, I heard that in Srilanka, the poor people will come to landfill sites and collect items that can still be utilised, and sell it so that they can buy their bread. "Natural recycling," the Srilankan representative said. In Japan however, if you spot something useful at a waste collection site, it is illegal to bring it home without permission. A friend was actually warned by a policeman for trying to pick up an old Led Zeppelin record, and was followed by the cop until he reached home!

So when I found this ideal dresser that a neighbor put out as bulk waste, I knocked on her door to see if I can have it. The lady of the house delightedly went in to ask the original owner (her mother-in-law), and turned out she didn't want to give it away to a stranger! I can go on forever.

I can say one thing, though. At least in Japan, _unfortunately_ public organizations won't change anything unless you make requests or inquiries. In other words, I know through experience, that they do make moves to make changes and will answer all your questions if you do ask or make requests. Don't use language barrier as your excuse, because at least in Kanagawa Pref. there is an town-making committee organized by foreign residents only. In Tokyo, there is at least one public interpreting service in every ward (ku).

But as far as waste is concerned, as mentioned, it's best not to make waste than to think about what happens after you throw them away.

As for the umbrella water, you can carry your own umbrella cover. They're available on mail order catalogues and most of them come with a handle you can hang on your car seat. Also, in the high-tech MM21 district of Yokohama, I notice that buildings have these cushion-like devises at the entrance where you stick your umbrella in a hole and shake it to take off all the excess water.

Say "no" to anything you don't need from the stores. Say "sekkaku dakedo (thanks for the offer but...). Say "mottainai desu kara (it seems like such a waste so..." to the elderly lady who points out that the right ones are hanging above. It's not too late even after the clerk as put in some of your groceries in the plastic bag.

But keep in mind the side effects. Like if you keep on using that same thin umbrella cover the buildings gives you for free, sooner or later it will tear apart due to the water weight and wet the floor :)

By Indo mommy on Friday, October 15, 2004 - 11:25 pm:


most enjoyed reading your post. very very informative and read it like a story!

guess just takes some awareness.

thanks and from today on am on the "use less plastic bandwagon"!

By Yuko Kubota on Sunday, October 17, 2004 - 8:55 am:

Coincidentally, I just found in our mail box, an illustrated notice from the City of Yokohama saying that from April 2005, more items will be recycled through public collection.

These include all plastic items with the recycle mark (you know, the arrows going in circles) including shampoo bottles and supermarket bags, as well as metal scissors and knives.

But we have to keep in mind that, for example, we're going to have to throw away cup ramen cups separately from cup ramen lids etc.

This has already been in practice in 6 wards of Yokohama, and I believe Tokyo has been even more complex.

Again, to find out more, ask your local Kankyo Jigyou Kyoku (Environmental Services Bureau Waste Collection Office) or Kuyakusho (Ward Office).

Also, just for reference, here is the website for garbage matters in Yokohama.
As you can see on the page, I forgot to mention in my previous post that most supermarkets in Tokyo area collect milk cartons and styrofoam trays.

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