Garbage Disposal in Japan: A Comprehensive Guide for Foreigners

As a mountainous nation with little trash-disposing space, Japan has its own garbage disposal system. The main purpose of this system is not only to enhance domestic recycling but also to cut down on the waste dumped into landfills. If you’re familiar with the standard garbage disposal system used by many countries around the world, be prepared for surprises when coming to Japan. Here, you’ll find that even the simple act of taking the trash out might not be as easy as it seems.

However, it might not be so confusing if you approach it correctly. To help you get accustomed to this unique system, we’ve compiled a guide to the garbage disposal in Japan. Let’s get to it:

1.      How to separate garbage in Japan?

According to the Japanese garbage disposal system, its residents must separate their garbage into 4 main categories:

Type of garbage The frequency of collection Materials Examples
Burnable garbage Twice per week Most household garbage, including things made from paper, fabric, rubber … Kitchen waste, paper scraps, …
Non-burnable garbage Once per month Things made from metal, glass, pottery, … Glass vases, cups, light bulbs, frying pans, batteries, …
Recyclable garbage Once per week Things made from plastic, paper, … that can be recycled for later use PET bottles, metal cans, newspapers, magazines, …
Oversized garbage


According to determined schedule Big home furniture, electric appliances, … Bicycles, sofas, TVs, fridges, washing machines, …

Please keep in mind that this guide represents a general look at the Japanese garbage disposal system. Different municipalities might have different rules regarding garbage separation, which is why you should get hold of your local Gomi guide as soon as possible. Gomi guides are very detailed and informative, and following the instructions provided will ensure that you won’t run into any problems with your neighbors.

garbage disposal in Japan

According to the Japanese garbage disposal system, its residents must separate their garbage into 4 main categories.

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2.      What about recyclable garbage?

Different municipalities might also have different definitions of what should fall under the “recyclable” category. Fortunately, your local gomi guide has all the information about this matter, so you don’t have to stress out because of such details.

In some places, recyclable garbage can be further separated based on the material or the purpose of such items. Plastic bottles can’t be put together with glass bottles. Aerosol cans made for paint-spraying or gas usage can’t be put together with food or beverage cans. If your place of living has such strict rules, you will have to separate recyclable garbage into different bags or baskets. In this case, it’s always better for you to go through and organize your recyclable garbage beforehand. This will save you from a lot of headaches and panic on the collection date.

3.      Garbage drop-offs and pickups

In Japan, you can dispose of your garbage through 2 methods:

  • Going to collection spots is a common way for people living in apartments or other crowded complexes. These places have their own rules that require people to keep everything clean and tidy.
  • Door-to-door collecting is a common practice where people gather garbage bags and put them in front of their house steps. Later, the garbage will be collected by the sanitation service.

Your local municipality will have regulations that determine which type of garbage to drop off and when such garbage would be picked up. These regulations might not be identical for all streets and districts of the municipality, so look for the schedule that is applied specifically to your area. You can also check publications such as garbage collection calendars for reference. Pay attention to the details in the schedule (such as the pickup hour, additional requests, …) and fully cooperate.

In case you have any oversized garbage, you should reach out to the Oversized Garbage Reception Center beforehand to set up an appointment. From there, you will work out the collection date and pay the pickup fee for such garbage. After that, you can drop your garbage off on the predetermined date as usual.

4.      Tips for household garbage disposal

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you separate and dispose your household garbage better:

  • If you live in an apartment, look out for “resident-only ” garbage places. These special areas allow for on-demand garbage disposal, so you never have to worry about missing garbage days ever again. If your building doesn’t have such areas, there should be a garbage collection place nearby. Find that spot and note down the collection schedule.
  • Some cities such as Koganei, Mitaka and Mushashino have disposal rules that involve unique garbage bags. The purpose of the bags is to balance out the cost arising from garbage transportation and incineration. If you live in these areas, make sure to buy these special bags from convenience stores and follow the instructions provided.
  • Garbage must be dropped off on time. To ensure that you aren’t missing out, drop the appropriate garbage off ahead of schedule (preferably the night before). And while you’re at it, take a look at how your neighbors do it and learn from them.
  • If you want to get rid of a large number of cardboard boxes or papers, buy strings to tie them together before discarding.
  • Cardboard boxes with food scraps are categorized as burnable garbage and should be separated from regular ones.
  • If you want to stop animals like crows from digging into the garbage, place yours under the netting section at your local collection point.

And that’s all you need to know about the Japanese garbage disposal system. With it, Japan has become one of the world’s leaders in the practice of waste management. And as effective as this system is, the Japanese government is constantly looking for new ways to make further progress. Subsequently, you should stay updated with these changes by acquiring information from your local municipality.   


About Yuu Sato

Yuu Sato has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.


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