Friday, August 15, 2008

Gomi gomi gomi... Trash trash trash

Gomi gomi gomi… Which trash day is it today????

Taking out the trash is normally a pretty mundane chore no matter where you are. But in Japan there is an extra element of excitement – you get to play a guessing game with everything you throw away AND that your neighbors are watching your every move!

In Sapporo specifically (each town is different) you have to sort your trash into 4 strict categories which have separate pick up days. (here's a picture of 2 of my 4 trash bins in my house)

1. Burnables (food scraps, paper, wood, clothes… anything that can burn burn burn)

2. Non-burnables (except for aerosols and batteries which go in their own separate bags... but then big things like TVs, mops, chairs, etc... can NOT be thrown away. You have to pay money to have it disposed of... but don't ask me how to do this... and I don't know how I would charade the details of that question to my neighbor)

3. Plastics #1 (all plastics except for plastic that has PET written on it, no plastic bottles, no plastic with any aluminum or anything else on it.)

4. Plastics #2 (Plastic bottles with PET written on it, but not their lids (don’t forget to remove their tops), aluminum cans, aluminum tops…

All of the above needs to be emptied out, rinsed, clean and dry… Then, each category has their specific day for collections:

Mondays and Fridays is burnables

Tuesday is non-burnables

Thursdays is plastics #1 and #2

How did I know this??? Well... during orientation JET talked a little bit about how important sorting trash... so I finally met one of my neighbors and asked him to help. (he didn't know English so we played a crazy game of charades mixed with our broken languages)

It’s pretty funny because with one item such as a tub of yogurt – you might have to dispose it into 4 different bins: The spoon might be PET plastic, the shrink wrap is the other kind of plastic, the top is a foil type non-burnable (I think), and the container is a thick paper which is burnable. (for some other smaller towns they have divide normal paper and thicker paper into separate bins. Geeeeeez…)

All of your neighbors bring their trash to the same area and place it under this fishing type netting. (Oh yeah... and you can't bring it out the night before cause the crazy crows with tear everything apart and sprawl your trash up and down the street.) Your trash also has to be in a clear plastic bag which means everyone can see what’s inside! I’ve heard other JETs who say that if you put the wrong trash out or accidentally put the wrong thing in the wrong bag on the wrong day your neighbors will either put it back on your doorstep or re-organize it themselves whilst holding an unknown grudge to the unsuspecting foreigner.

I had my first trash days last week so I tried to hide my bags at the bottom of the pile and then I went home and prayed that everything would work out OK. Trash is here public domain – anyone can snoop through it and especially since I’m a new blonde foreigner on the block I’m sure everyone will want to see what goods I’ve thrown away. I’m also a bit nervous since my predecessor left a bunch of bags full of liquor bottles- I hope my neighbors don’t think I’m a drunk. Hahah…

The second picture is of a trash collection point on the way to school. Mine is actually sprawled out along the floor instead of in a bin - so it's much easier to spy on others gomi. :)

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