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Trash and Recycling

Strict refuse disposal laws and the constant turnover of JETs often lead to ridiculously cluttered apartments. Before you can properly settle in, you will probably have to throw some things out. Disposal regulations, however, are determined by each municipality and can vary substantially. The following information should be used as a general guide only. Pick up the most up-to-date and relevant information at your town or city office.

Refuse is divided into two broad categories: burnable trash and everything else. Burnable trash is the most straightforward to get rid of – simply bag it and leave it out on trash day. “Everything else” is further divided into non-burnables, large items and recyclables, each in turn with its own exclusive disposal policy. Sorting rubbish may have never felt this daunting, but with a dose of optimism, you’ll come to embrace the brain-tease.

Burnable trash 燃えるゴミ (moeru gomi)

  • Generally includes paper products, food waste (including packaging), pens, bottle tops, toothbrushes, shoes and bags, CDs, buckets, toys and plant material.
  • Collected twice weekly.
  • Must be put out in designated bags (colour-coded by municipality) available at supermarkets, convenience stores and town hall.
  • Usually is put out the morning of collection day. In some towns you may get away with putting it out late the night before.

Note: In the world of Japanese refuse ordinances, “burnable” is not synonymous with “flammable.” Just because something can burst into flames when lit does not necessarily mean it can go out with the burnable trash.

Non-burnable trash 燃えないゴミ (moenai gomi)

  • Items may include batteries, light bulbs, cookware, aerosol cans, dishes, mirrors, tea kettles and small electric appliances such as hairdryers. Must be taken to designated collection points on Big Trash/Recycling Day (See below).
  • Appliances/Large Household Items (big trash) are also considered non-burnable trash.
  • Items include bicycles, stereos, stoves, mattresses, kerosene heaters, furniture, tatami and rugs are sometimes accepted on the Big Trash/Recycling Day, but usually getting rid of these items usually takes a little more work.
  • First obtain a disposal sticker (gomi no stikka) for each item (price depends on what you’re getting rid of) and then arrange to have it picked up. The price of pick-up should be included in the sticker price, but be sure to ask. These stickers are available at town hall and at convenience stores.
  • Most municipalities should have at least two options for pick-up. One is to contact town hall directly and arrange a date and time for a truck to come to your home. Another option is to wait for this truck to make its rounds in your neighborhood. It signals its arrival with a pre-recorded message on loud speakers.


  • Items are pretty much the same as what is recycled back home: cans, bottles (not the tops), cartons, aluminum, glass, Styrofoam trays and newspapers.
  • Rinse everything. Cartons should also be cut so they lay flat.
  • Depending on your towns recycling policy, there may be different days and bags for items to be collected. Though collection is less frequent than burnables (about twice a month) it can be much more convenient than carrying the items to a recycling bin yourself.
  • Supermarkets and convenience stores provide some recycling bins, and there will often be some outside of the town/city hall also.

Big Trash/Recycling Day

  • Held one or two times per month at a designated pick up point, sometimes right at city hall.
  • Volunteers are on hand to “educate” you on proper refuse disposal.
  • When in doubt about an item, bring it here. Better to ask and do it right the first time than to have your burnable trash returned to you for having been improperly sorted.