LWIF EP28: Becoming a Japanese Waste Management Specialist

Little did Aiko know, that instead of making a video about recycling, she was training to become a Japanese Waste Management Specialist.

For an excellent post on Japan’s recycling and burning of waste, Tofugu has a pretty good article on it. One thing you’ll learn is that not all goods, even if they’re separated from the general trash, will be recycled. This is due to the way Japan incinerates items.

Something that’s often pointed out, is that Japanese goods tend to have a lot of packaging. Something will be wrapped in plastic, and then put in another plastic bag, and then in a box. After living here a few years, I kind of get some of the reasons why. Part of it can be attributed to presentation, and another part to making sure food items are as fresh as possible. One piece of solace that I can gave to those who think Japan has too much packaging, is that I find the weights (or gauges) of the materials tend to be thinner than what I’m accustomed to in Canada.

Some people ask why there are so few trash cans in Tokyo/Japan. If you search the Internet, you find a few different answers, but the most popular seems to be because of a sarin gas attack in 1995. So, without a lot of trash cans, what do you do when you’re out and about? You carry your trash with you and dispose of it at a convenience store or at home. When we do a family outing, I usually have a backpack with me and make sure to have a spare plastic bag ready for any trash we might create.

I’ve heard people say that Japan is so clean. It’s funny, because after living here for a few years I can find plenty of examples where Japan is not so clean. But when I visit other places, I understand once again why people say Japan is a clean place. Japan isn’t spotless, but on the whole it’s quite clean. I think a big part of it is the personal responsibility that people have. This works out in people not littering in the first place, but also in that staff feel it’s their responsibility to keep the places they work at clean.

How do you deal with waste where you’re from? 

8 comments on LWIF EP28: Becoming a Japanese Waste Management Specialist

  • SEA monster

    Dear Aiko,

    I’m impressed with your newly acquired waste management skills. I am equally impressed with how many recyclables your dad manages to hide around the house.

    Our recycling culture (in the Czech Republic), while not as developed and thorough as yours, is pretty similar to what I have seen in your video.

    Attached you can see our underground containers for recycled paper, glass and plastic waste.

    Happy New Year! 🙂

    • lifewhereimfrom (author)

      That’s cool. I’ve never seen containers that are connected to bigger bins underground!

  • Brittany

    So this is how Japan is soo clean.Recycling in Japan must be tiring. Great job, Aiko

  • Smithb847

    Howdy. Simply just planned to ask a quick problem. Now i’m dgaccadegggkacfe

  • natalia

    Hai aiko i’m from indonesia…i love all your videos…can’t wait for ur next video

  • Franziska

    Wow, its a bit like recycling in German.

    We have the yellow sack / “Gelber Sack” were you have to put light metal things or plastic. Such as milk cartons or yogurt cups. Every 2 weeks a company pick them up, all people put them on the sideway that day. For paper we have a big bin in front of our house. Both things we don’t have to pay, but we don’t get something like toiletpaper either. For normal glass we have a collecting point some streets across.
    And we have pledge for most drink container (Glass, plastic or can). You have to pay 0,25 Cent (round about 30yen ) to get your drink (Cola, sparkling water etc.). After you finished your drink, you have to bring it to a supermarket to get your money back.

    If you put something wrong in recycle bin/sack, they won’t take it and you have to take it to a collecting point for trash (dumping ground?). Things like a pan or bigger trash like furniture has to be brought to that ground by yourself. Dangerous goods, yellow sacks or electronics will be taken for free, for every other trash you have to pay per Kilogramm.

    Thats how Celle is doing it. Every county can have there own system, except for the pledge, this is for everyone in germany.

    Next time i take some pictures for you.

  • Rieski Kurniasari

    Dear Aiko,

    My name is Kiki from Indonesia and I am very impressed for what have you and your family have done. It is very good job and I want to say arigatou gozaimasu for sharing this.

    We haven’t had a recyclable system yet in my city, Makassar. People usually separate trash into two types wet and dry, but not all houses applied this system. The government hire workers to clean up the garbage periodically and we don’t have responsibility to separate the trash.

    I wish someday people in my city can learn this waste management.



  • Sam Ford

    That’s really interesting, but also seems like a pain. At least you have something though. Our system here in Houston is entirely non existent. Everything goes in the landfill, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I’ve seen many, many people put couches on the side of the road.
    The only recycling we get is aluminum cans, and those are ¢.20/lb, or I guess Y40 a kilo. There’s no intensive to recycle anything else, as no one pays for anything else. And even the cans we have to take down to the scrap yard ourselves. It’s rather sad in a way. It’s not that people don’t want to recycle, we just have no incentive to.

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