Jul 7, 2018

Gomi; it's a load of rubbish

A rant about garbage.

    Gomi -- garbage 

    Load of rubbish -- Irish slang for nonsense

Trash, waste, rubbish, garbage, gomi, call it what you will, has been the bane of my daily life since arriving in Japan 17 years ago. I must confess for my first couple of years here as an exchange student I didn't sort my trash. Almost everything went into "burnable" rubbish. But I have developed a sense of duty as well as an ecological awareness since those days. I now almost obsequiously separate my rubbish.

Gomi; it's a load of rubbish photo

I actually agree with and support the ideology behind the trash disposal system in Japan, but boy is it a pain in the proverbial.  And surely there is a better way to manage it. I wish they had wheelie bins here like at home, where you just chuck everything into one of three gargantuan bins (recyclable, burnable and glass) and forget about it until the one day of the week the bins are wheeled out to the end of your driveway for emptying.

Instead we have to walk to a rubbish disposal area in our neighborhood every day of the week. On Tuesdays and Fridays we heft kilos of burnable waste to the spot 200 kilometers from our house. Although I am not complaining about the distance, much better there than on our doorstep. Monday plastics and paper go out; in separate bags of course. They are the easy days. Wednesdays and Thursdays you leave out different things on different weeks; cans, pressurized cans, broken crockery, dangerous items... the list goes on and on. You have to separate them all into different bags and put them out on different dates. The schedule is so convoluted that we have to follow a calendar and booklet with detailed descriptions of the how and the when.

Then there is the obligation of the rubbish disposal area management. If you live in a condo or equivalent that is often managed by the building administration staff. However, if you live in a housing area as we do, the rubbish disposal areas are the responsibility of the community. In my current neighborhood we have a small designated area that was purpose built at the corner of a housing area. In other neighborhoods I have lived in the area was literally on the road in front of someone's house. Everywhere I have lived, both apartments and houses, they always have nets for pulling over the rubbish so that the crows can't get at it. A whole other story.

Another burden of the rubbish situation here is that we have to take turns to clean the rubbish area and manage the waste. If somebody leaves out the wrong rubbish you have to figure out who it was and drop the rubbish back to them. I kid you not. For a while we had so many people getting it wrong that the neighborhood association decided that we all had to write our names on the disposal bags. We did that for almost two years. Another responsibility when it is your turn to manage the disposal area is that you have to clean the area. There is a tap nearby with a hose so you can wash it out. Most people also use one of their own brushes to scrub it down too. I have not developed that level of commitment quite yet!

My biggest issue with the burden of rubbish in Japan is where to store it. We have half outside the house and half in it. And it took a lot of persuasion to get my husband to agree to have bins outside the house. He was worried that they would be set on fire, something that does indeed happen randomly in Japan. Pyromaniacs see rubbish bins outside as an incendiary provocation. The incidents which are reported infrequently on the news are so few and far between that I don't personally feel enough of a threat to keep burnable rubbish indoors, particularly at this time of the year. What we keep inside is the finicky stuff that only goes out once a month such as empty beer cans, dangerous waste, broken crockery and the like. 

Is the rubbish system similar in your area? Do you have to take a turn managing it and cleaning out the disposal area? Where do you store your rubbish between disposal days? Any tips you'd care to share to make gomi less of a load of rubbish!?



Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.


  • genkidesu

    on Jul 7

    Oh I hear you 110% on this! I miss the large wheelie bins from back home too! The worst part for me is when we forget the plastics or glass collection days - normal burnables here are M-W-F so it's relatively easy to remember, but the glass and plastic collection days chop and change a lot...and inevitably in the morning blur that happens most days, we tend to forget at least once a month for one of them!

  • Saitama

    on Jul 8

    @genkidesu I absolutely hate when we forget or are too late for the drop off and then have to keep the rubbish for another week or more depending on what it is. Gah!!! Three day burnable pick ups - nice. At least you get the smelly stuff away from the house. But all that other stuff... I'd never survive without the calendars!!