Gomi rules

Gomi is rubbish, and Japan has a very strict set of rules regarding the handling and disposal of the different types. I recently finished reading If You Follow Me, a fun and easy-to-read book about life as an English teacher in rural Japan, and one of the themes running through it was gomi, and how the main characters consistently failed to dispose of it in the correct manner, causing trouble and embarrassment for the locals. It reminded me that I haven’t made any posts about the rather laborious sorting, washing, storing and disposal routine, so I will tell you all about it ;)

Gomi rules

This poster is A3 sized and appeared in all our letter boxes in English a few months ago, after what I assume were errors in our gomi management. (“Our” being myself and the other gaijin who live in the same block). As you will see (especially if you click through to the large version) you need to do something different with almost every type of rubbish.


These are the recycling rules. All containers needs to be washed, and the plastics, paper/card, glass and metals all stored separately and put into separate bags for collection. To make life more confusing, some can only be got rid of at local drop-off points, and the others need to be put out in a different place to burnable and non-burnable garbage.

It creates quite a lot of work, and I am absolutely certain that Brits would not follow such a system. In my apartment I have two bins for burnable and non-burnable (below) garbage, and a big bag for plastics, which make up by far the largest proportion of my trash. Everything here comes in plastic – fruits and veg are all wrapped in plastic bags, fish and meat come on recyclable trays, plastic food wrappers can be recycled, bottles and of course sushi and other takeaway food too. In two weeks I can fill a bin bag with plastic things. I find the amount of plastic waste I create quite distressing. I have another bag for the other recyclable things – food cans, glass bottles and mile cartons. As I mentioned above, anything that has had food in/on it needs to be washed first – bottles rinsed, bits of rice rinsed off, meat and fish juices washed away.

General rubbish
There are two main types of what they call “refuse” – burnable and non-burnable. The former is all food waste, plus paper products, wooden chopsticks and so on. The latter is non-recyclable plastics, bits of metal and other random small items that can’t be burnt. This is by far the smallest proportion of my rubbish.
The final thing to bare in mind is that all these types of rubbish need to go in the correct bag; at the supermarket they sell lots of types of bags – red for burnable, blue for recycling and so on – and you need to make sure the right things go in the right one.
Whilst this all sounds like a pain in the arse, it’s mostly ok if you keep on top of it, and the most annoying thing is having so many bin bags cluttering up the apartment!

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