I thought about writing this post a month ago and didn’t. My thought process went like this… “I should write about my trash. I could post pictures of my trash can and all my little bins and explain why it takes so much of my time. Yikes!!! What does that say about my life when all I can think of to post about is garbage!!!” Maybe I better take my camera and get out and see if I can find anything more interesting to blog about.” So the garbage post was never written. However, I have changed my mind. If the rest of the world was as obsessed as the Japanese are about how they get rid of things, then the world would be in much better shape.

The first time I began to understand the importance of this trash thing was when I was still living in the hotel. I bought something at a food court and when I went to cleanup I was a bit confused by the garbage bin. There was a hole in the top to pour liquids in. A place for plastic and a place for food and paper. Everything was written in Japanese. Luckily, there were pictures.

On the first day we moved into our apartment the man who manages our building took me to the basement trash room and explained to me in Japanese what to do with my trash. He pointed to a sign on the wall also in Japanese that explained everything, it also had pictures. On the way out, I noticed a sign just like it, only in English. I made a mental note to come back after he went home and study the English version, which I did.

I have several categories of trash: combustible (food scraps, paper and anything that can be burned), incombustible (plastic, metal and anything that cannot be burned), cans, glass bottles, PET bottles, paper and cardboard, cardboard milk and juice cartons (these have to be rinsed and cut flat) and styrofoam. Each of these must be disposed of separately. This means I would need 7 or 8 different containers, one for each category of trash. At first I was going crazy with all the little bins in the kitchen and laundry room not to mention remembering which day each type of trash was collected.

On my first trip to Costco I found the perfect trash can. It has three separate compartments and pop-up lids. Each compartment has a pail with a handle. So now instead of three of the bins I have one nice looking one for combustibles, incombustibles and glass bottles and cans.

Then in the laundry room I use a basket for the newpapers and cardboard boxes which must be flattened. I have another bin for the milk cartons and combine the PET bottles and the styrofoam in another. I have gotten quite good at making sure everything is disposed of properly. Everything can go downstairs to the trash room except the styrofoam and I have to carry that back to the grocery store for recycling.

When it comes to garbage, I am grateful that I live in an apartment instead of a house. My friend had mounds of trash building up outside her house because the garbage men would not take it. They knew she was a foreigner and so they would open her bags and check them. If she had made a mistake they would not pick it up. They would always leave a note in Japanese explaining the problem.� She does not read Japanese.� It took her a month to get it right.

I suspect that our building manager sorts through the trash before he puts it out for the truck. I suspect this because my trash disappears soon after I put it in the trash room. The bins are always empty every afternoon at 5:00. There must be another trash room in the building where he takes it all to check and make sure we are doing it right.� Should it bother me that someone is picking through my trash?� Well, it does.

Recycling has become a way of life and it bothers me, when I return to the US or visit Allyson in London, that everything pretty much goes in the same bin.� Kristina does have a large trash can for recycling, but they don’t sort it.� Salt Lake County must pay someone else to do the sorting.� Over the last 18 months I have come to appreciate the Japanese for being so obsessed with trash and I have stopped complaining about how much time it takes.� In fact, it doesn’t take that much time at all since I have figured out my system.


  1. Stephanie M

    So where do diapers go?????????

  2. Alex

    I am feeling weird. I should be studying for Economics, but instead I am reading about sorting trash…hmm…not sure what to think about all this.

  3. vanalee

    I haven’t actually thought about that and will have to ask a friend, but I think they go in the combustible (things you can burn)

  4. Nicole

    Aunt Bammy You are the BEST!! 🙂
    We Love YOu!!

  5. marisa

    I don’t know how you have time for anything else!!!

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