Monday and Thursday morning is garbage collection. There are no garbage bins for individual houses (at least not in this area), so you have to bring your waste to designated spots close by your building. Every house has a special spot where to bring the garbage, and you have to put it there before 8 am – but not the night before!

You pay for garbage collection by buying designated plastic bags that come in various sizes; they are sold at convenience stores and cost 1 yen per litre capacity. There are many crows here, so this – and probably the wind – is the reason why you have to put your bags underneath a net and secure it with stones. The nets are usually tucked away in an extra bag on an electricity mast nearby for example.

garbage collection spot in Kyoto
garbage collection

So far, so easy. What I find rather irksome though is the fact that recycling – while it does exist – is made relatively complicated. The obvious recyclables – glass bottles, cans and PET bottles – are collected once a week. Other things – plastic containers and packaging in general, paper, metal… are collected only once a month, and while the spot for the rubbish is always the same, I could not find out when the collection takes place.

Also it seems that separating waste is not mandatory, my landlady even said I can put anything into the “burnable” waste category, from paper to kitchen waste, plastic and ceramics, even batteries… And let’s not forget that Japanese houses are tiny and there’s not much space for storing anything – so it’s much easier just to throw stuff out immediately and be done with it. To be honest, after my time in Germany where everybody must recycle (at least theoretically) this is almost painful, especially in a highly industrialized country as Japan.

I do know though, that in other Japanese towns things are different. I recall from a visit in Saku (which is a small town in the countryside in Nagano prefecture), that the household there had eight or so different bins… Probably a bit overkill, and most likely not mandatory either, but it made me feel a bit better there.

Fun fact: Here in Kyoto, there are collection points for old tempura oil – and used lighters…