Oct 15, 2018

Sustainable Japan: Recycling/Disposing of the tricky stuff

Anybody who has lived in Japan is well aware of the strict rules on trash sorting. Each house has a minimum of three bins, but that’s on the conservative end of things.

It’s actually a little more relaxed out here in the countryside, since we only have four types of trash instead of the five-to-seven that I’m used to in the big cities. Out here, we have burnable, non-burnable, plastics, and glass/metal. Still, as broad as those categories are, there is a long list of items that may not be thrown away in the normal garbage. They include:

Sustainable Japan: Recycling/Disposing of the tricky stuff photo

- Fire Extinguishers

- TVs

- Air Conditioners

- Personal Computers

- Tires

- Oil

- Propane Tanks / Gas Bombs (the small gas canisters used for space heaters, hot plates, etc.)

- Farming equipment (okay, so this one is a little more unique to our neighborhood!)

- Spare parts for bikes and automobiles

- Safes

- Concrete objects

...and the list goes on.

Having spent a year accumulating non-perishable waste (not farm equipment, but other stuff) because I wasn’t sure where to dispose of it, I finally decided to do some research to close the gap.

For this post, I figured I would share what I found out to save you the trouble. So here we go...

Check Your City’s Website

Each city in Japan has its own trash ordinances. That complicates things, but fortunately, most Japanese cities also maintain a website that contains information about when, where, and how to dispose of trash. My first recommendation is to start there. Under the 暮らし・手続き (Living/Procedures) section, there should be information about ごみ・リサイクル (trash/recycling). From there, you can look for the 家庭 (household trash) to find the corresponding instructions for your respective townships.

But aside from that, here are some common items that typically have special disposal requirements and where to do it:

Appliances, Bicycles, other big items

If you’ve purchased any big items in Japan and then need to dispose of it, the first place to start is the store where you bought it.  For example, if you purchased a fridge from K's Denki, you can usually return there for recycling/disposal. 

If that doesn't work, find a local recycle shop.  Recycle shops here would probably be better billed as Refurb/Upcycle shops, since they tend to repair and resell any items that are junked by others.  If you're lucky, the recycle shops may come periodically to your neighborhood.  You'll hear them announce over loudspeakers that they are interested in taking any of your old appliances, futons, etc.

Printer cartridges

This one is pretty simple: head to your local Daiso store! Near the entrance or bagging areas, there should be a little green box with yellow opening where you can just toss in your used printer cartridges. 

Sustainable Japan: Recycling/Disposing of the tricky stuff photo

Batteries , Personal Computers, Smartphones, etc.

Japan has a few big electronics stores that are scattered throughout the country: Yamada Denki, K's Denki, Bic Camera, Kojima, etc.  They will have tall cardboard containers where you can place your personal electronics.  If you have something too big for the box, just see an attendant and they can help you out.

Sustainable Japan: Recycling/Disposing of the tricky stuff photo

Miscellaneous Recyclables

Aeon Malls and Department Stores are a great place to go for other recyclables like cardboard.  In fact, if you have a chipped WAON card, you can gain WAON points for recycling!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).