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Having been in Japan for over six years now, garbage disposal is now part and parcel of my daily life. However, even now, I would encounter certain types of garbage that I didn't know how to sort and dispose of. There are so many rules about garbage disposal that nobody tells you about before you move to Japan that I sometimes think there should be gaijin school teaching you all these facets of Japan life.

Lucky for you, I decided to write this guide that should tell you almost everything you need to know about garbage disposal in Japan, consisting of the following topics:

In Singapore where I grew up, each floor of your apartment would have one shared chute that you could dump all of your garbage into, regardless of type. If it fits, it goes down.

While they have recycling bins for glass, plastic and cans in Singapore, it's said that they would mix the different types of recyclables upon collection since it will be sorted during the recycling process anyway. Some of these bins don't even have sections for you to sort them. The way it was handled certainly gave me one less thing to think about.

In Japan, it's a whole different story. You have garbage collection days and different ways of disposal for different types of garbage. It can get pretty confusing, gaijin or not.

This guide aims to be as comprehensive as possible. If you have a question that didn't get answered in the guide, please leave a comment and I will add the answer for the benefit of all.

IMPORTANT I will repeat this throughout the guide but it is essential to know that the sorting and disposing rules and costs differs from municipality to municipality. There are countless variations so there is no way I can include all of them in this guide. However, I will be sharing how to find the right manual from your municipality through this guide.

Also remember, I could not possibly experience every single situation to give first-hand advice. This is another way of me saying what you do is your own responsibility and not mine when something goes wrong following this guide.

With that aside, let's start with some topics for basic understanding.

Japan Garbage Collection Schedule: garbage collection days and times differ based on where you live in Japan.

First of all, you must understand that each city has its own unique garbage collection rules and schedule. Even within the city, different districts can have different garbage collection days.

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If you take a look at the example of Ebisu district of Shibuya-ku, the collection day for combustibles is Monday and Thursday, while for Shibuya district of the same Shibuya-ku, it's Tuesday and Friday.

Let's take another example from far away Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido. Each day, they collect a different type of garbage. On the 5th of April to 9th of April 2021, the schedule is as follows:

  • Mon (4/5) – Paper/Cardboard
  • Tue (4/6) – Combustibles
  • Wed (4/7) – Can, Glass Bottles, Paper Packets, Metal Home Goods
  • Thu (4/8) – Plastic, Pet Bottles
  • Fri (4/9) – Combustibles
  • Sat (4/10) – No collection
  • Sun (4/11) – No collection
Garbage collection schedule of Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido
Garbage collection schedule of Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido

There are, however, some common points that is shared across most of Japan:

  • There will be usually be two days per week of combustibles collection, while other types have only one. Some special types of garbage, like hazardous waste, will be collected once a month.
  • There will be days that there will be no collections, including public holidays.

Usually, there will be a sign by the garbage collection area that tells you of the schedule. In some cities where the collection schedule can be more complicated, you'll receive a calendar by post. This booklet will probably become the first thing you look at each morning.

Either way, when you move into the new city, the first thing you should do is to search for the garbage collection calendar with the following keyword: [your city name], followed by “ゴミ カレンダー” (garbage calendar). For example, if you are living in Shinjuku-ku (新宿区), you would search for “新宿区 ゴミ カレンダー” without the quotes.

Unfortunately, cities that provide an English version of the calendar are far and few. You could try your luck by adding the keyword “英語版” (English version) into your search term.

In some smaller apartment buildings, or “mansions” as the Japanese refer to them, there will be a garbage station that allows you to throw your garbage regardless of the day of the week. The garbage collectors will simply collect the appropriate garbage following the calendar. See here on how to find an apartment that lets you do so.

What time is garbage collected in Japan?

As mentioned, the differing rules of each municipality is a pain for foreigners and Japanese alike. In general, garbage is usually collected in the morning between the time of 6am to 8am.

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You can find the exact time by finding the sign by the garbage station or referring to the information from your city ward. Here are a few examples:

  • Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo – by 8am
  • Machida-shi, Tokyo – by 830am
  • Shibuya-ku, Tokyo – by 8am

Some municipalities will specify the time in which you can start putting out your garbage, while others simply state the cutoff time. For example, Yamagata-shi stipulated between 6am to 8am as the time to take our your garbage, while Adashi-ku in Tokyo simply states “by 8am” without indication of start time.

The reason why they have a stipulated time period is because if you leave garbage out for too long, crows will tear open the garbage bags to scavenge for food, scattering the garbage all over the street. So, be sure the follow the timing.

Nets to prevent crows from accessing garbage in Japan.
Crows are the reason why some garbage stations have nets.
What if you cannot abide by garbage collection timings in Japan?

There are many professionals who work late nights or the night shift so waking up in the morning to take out the garbage can be disruptive to their lives. Consideration has been given to such people where outside covered garbage stations would be set up in those areas to prevent interferences from wildlife, allowing a more generous collection time period.

As mentioned, there are mansions with garbage station lets you take out garbage any time of the day. The keyword you want to look for when finding such apartments is “24時間ゴミステーション” which means 24 hours garbage station. This will often be a room in the basement of the building that can be accessed anytime of the day. Since this means that more garbage will be accumulated on any given day, large complexes with more residents tend not to have this feature.

Some of these residences even have a feature called a garbage drum (ゴミドラム), which is a special device installed in the common space that will compress garbage to allow space savings, reduction of foul odors and easy collection.

What if you miss the garbage collection timings in Japan?

As the cutoff timing given is the time in which the garbage truck will start their rounds, you will probably be okay if you miss the timing by a little. If you miss the timing by a lot, the best thing you can do is bring down your garbage and see if the garbage has already been collected or not. If it has, just take it back and wait for the next collection day.

How to Sort Garbage in Japan?

Garbage separation categories differ based on where you live in Japan.

As you can see in the previous section, it's not just the collection days are different, but the way you are expected to sort your garbage is different based on where you live.

For example, Shibuya-ku will collect paper and cloth goods, together with other types of combustibles, on the combustible collection day, while Tachikawa-shi requires you to throw out your paper recyclables on Wednesdays and combustibles separately on Thursday.

Here is another example from Tachikawa-shi:

Managed to find an English version for Tachikawa-shi.

As you can see, the garbage disposal calendar is key for you to not make your landlord regret accepting a gaijin as a resident. Apart from the schedule, it tells you how you should sort your garbage.

Even with the calendar, there can be special exceptions, like in some municipalities, clothing will not be collected on rainy days.

Garbage Categories in Japan: How to Sort Garbage in Japan

Knowing when to bring out your garbage is one thing, but how do you actually sort it?

Each municipality has different standards for sorting garbage

Once again, each city have different rules for sorting, down to individual items. I cannot emphasize this enough.

For example, Machida-shi has a glossary guide that tells you how to sort every single type of item. Even in the same city, the way to sort might be different for different districts. For example, the guide states that plastic cards should be sorted as combustible in districts 1-12, but as incombustibles in district 13.

Unfortunately, if you want 100% accuracy, then there isn't a way to avoid referring to the detailed, municipality-specific guide, usually available only in Japanese.

The following is a general guide that would be more or less accepted wherever your are. It won't be perfect, but chances are that your landlord or city wouldn't get too mad.

Look for the Recycle Mark on Packaging

For recyclables, a recycling mark will be displayed on the packaging of a product that tells you how to sort them. This mark is the best reference as to how to sort something. The five marks you will come across are as follows

Recycle marks in Japan

From left to right

  • Steel (スチール)
    Coffee can, fruit juice can, some tea, etc.
  • Aluminum (アルミ)
    Soda cans, beer cans, etc.
  • PET Bottles
    Plastic bottle. Note that bottles without the mark should be considered as incombustibles.
    You might come across the below mark with a small “PET” word at the bottom. PET here refers to polyethylene terephthalate which is the same material as PET bottles. However, this should still be sorted as plastic and not PET bottles.
  • Plastic (プラ)
    Note that this excludes plastic bottles like that of condiments, drinks and alcohol as they belong under PET Bottles.
  • Paper (紙)
    This includes cardboards and drink containers that do not use plastic or aluminum.

At times, you will not find the mark readily. For example, on some disposable contact lens, you won't find the plastic mark on the lens packaging itself, but instead, will find it on the box containing all the lens. So, be sure to look carefully before sorting.

All the Different Types of Combustibles (Burnable) Garbage in Japan

As the name suggests, this refers to everything that can be burned.
Combustible garbage consists of :

  • Desiccant packets
  • Leftover food or kitchen waste (生ゴミ), which includes things like
    • Banana skins
    • Cooking oil
    • Crab shells
    • Egg shells
    • Hard diary like cheese or butter
    • Noodles (excluding soup)
    • Soft diary products like yogurt depends on your municipality rules. Some allow you to dispose it as combustible, while others don't. You can also choose to dilute it with water and let it go down the drain, although it might cause clogging at times.
    • Kitchen wastes that are not combustibles are soups, beverages, and seasoning and should be diluted and disposed of into your kitchen sink.
  • Leather products
  • Plastic products, like cassettes, video (VHS) tapes, and dirty plastic bags
    In general, dirty plastic bags are consider combustibles, even though they are technically plastic packaging. However, large amount of plastic bags (dirty or otherwise) is considered incombustibles.

Depending on your city, you might be required to sort the following separately (see following sections), but otherwise, they will be considered as combustibles.

  • Tree branches, including logs or leaves
  • Clothing, including underwear and footwear

Some of you might wondering, “What?! Since when are plastics burnable?”. This was confusing for me since I was taught from young that plastics can't be burn.

In fact, discerning if plastic should be sorted into burnable or not is confusing even for the Japanese. In the past, Japan actually designated all plastics as non-combustibles. These plastics had to be brought to a landfill to disintegrate over time. With limited land space and with the advancement of incinerator technology, plastics can now be burned without producing harmful toxins.

All the Different Types of Incombustibles (Non-Burnable) in Japan

These basically refers to things that cannot be burned, although once again, some can be tricky to discern. They include of the following

  • Aluminum foil
  • Carpets or rugs
  • Certain plastic products like hoses, cords
  • Cutlery
  • Electric blankets
  • Futons
  • PET bottles without a “1” mark in the triangle
  • Pottery, like flower pots and other ceramic wares
  • Metals, which includes caps of canned goods or drinks with metal bottles (the main body should be sorted as “can”)
  • Mirrors
  • Shoji screens
  • Small household appliances
  • Tatami mats
  • Umbrellas
  • Wire hangers
  • Wooden furnitures

In most municipalities, you might be required to sort the following recyclables separately (see following sections), but if not, they will be considered as incombustibles.

  • Glass like cosmetic bottles
  • Cans including confectionery cans, seaweed cans
  • Hazardous material like light bulbs (with incandescent lamps)

Hazardous Materials

In many municipalities, you will be required to sort hazardous materials as they can potentially lead to a fire or explosion when mixed with other types of garbage. They include:

  • Batteries
  • Cassette type gas cylinders
  • Light bulbs (with incandescent lamps)
  • Lighters
  • Products with mercury, like thermometer or blood pressure reader
  • Spray cans

In the municipalities where there isn't a dedicated collection for each of these, you can sort it as incombustibles, making sure to separate it from the rest of the non-hazardous incombustibles.

There are also types of hazardous garbage that cannot be collected by the city at all and you would have to contact specialist companies to dispose of them. Some them include:

  • Gasoline
  • Propane gas tanks
  • Construction materials
  • Engine oil
  • Car parts, including tires
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Fertilizer
  • Used syringes

As you can tell, it just takes some common sense to tell that these type of items cannot be thrown out normally. Once you suspect that it might be the case, calling the English hotline of your ward office for guidance might be easiest for those who don't understand Japanese.

Some batteries cannot be disposed of normally in Japan

There are certain types of batteries that the municipality cannot handle and you would have to take to specialty disposal shops.

Specifically, you would need to contact the Button Battery Disposal Center (ボタン電池回収推進センター) to dispose button-type batteries. Contacting them at 0120-266-205 will tell you where you can dispose of them nearby.

This is not to be confused with coin-type batteries with CR or BR model number, which can be disposed of normally (as hazardous materials).

Additionally, for NiCad (nickel+cadmium) batteries, you have to request a professional recycling service to get rid of it. Based on my research, it costs about ¥330 to dispose of one battery. This method only applies to batteries with the “Ni-Cd” mark. You can usually send the batteries in via regular letter pack from Japan Post. To find a company that supports this, do a search for “ニカド電池 処分” which means “NiCad battery disposal”.

Plastics

The term “plastic” can be misleading. This does not refer to everything made of plastic, but only plastic packaging and containers, that has the plastic (プラ) recycling mark.

To differentiate between plastic containers and packaging and plastic products, they are defined by the following definition.

  • Plastic containers and packaging (sort as plastics)
    They are plastic wrapping, container, covers, packaging or any type of outer covering that are no longer needed after the contents are taken out and used. These are to be sorted as plastics.
  • Plastic products (sort as combustibles)
    These are products made of plastic. For example, while plastic soap holders or plastic Tupperware cover or contain other products, they themselves are considered products. Therefore, they should be sorted as combustible garbage.

Why do they have to be separated?! Well, in principle, we should recycle as much plastic as possible. However, recycling plastic costs a lot of money, effort and energy.

In Japan, manufacturers and sellers using plastic containers and packaging are responsible for the cost of recycling by law. For example, mayonnaise producers will pay for the cost of recycling mayonnaise bottles. However, the law doesn't yet dictate who will bear the costs for recycling plastic products due to the high costs, thus resulting in this type of sorting requirement.

For the same reason, plastic packaging and containers can only be sorted as plastics if its contents is a product. For example, the plastic packaging that goes around dry cleaning has to be sorted as combustible since it does not package a product. The clothes isn't the product, but rather the cleaning service is. This can be a tricky concept to get a hang of.

Only clean plastics, regardless of the mark, should be sorted into plastic. If it is dirty and cannot be cleaned or does not have the plastic recycling mark, you should sort it into combustibles.

Recyclable plastics include:

  • Pudding containers
  • Net for oranges
  • Snack packaging like potato chip bags
  • Bento boxes from convenience stores
  • Clear files
  • Trays for fish or meat

A few exceptions are

  • CD Case
    Even though this is technically packaging, this should not be sorted as plastic, with the exception if the プラ mark is shown. The reason is that plastic refers to packaging that is emptied of its contents and disposed after single use. CD cases, as products, can be reused, therefore does not apply.
  • Dry Cleaning Plastic Sheet
    You know those plastic sheet that comes with your dry cleaning? They have to be sorted as combustibles even if they aren't dirty. This is because the product here is the cleaning service itself and the clothing is not the product, therefore the sheet is not categorized as plastic packaging.
  • Mayonnaise or Sauce Bottles
    In the case where you cannot clean them, which is most of the time, then they should be considered combustibles. If you can somehow clear it from its contents, then it can be sorted as plastic. This concept applies to plastic containers like cup ramen cups or natto packaging.
  • Plastic Cutlery
    While plastic straws, spoons and forks are made of plastic, they are not considered packaging. Therefore, they should sorted into combustible garbage. However, the plastic packing that comes with them should be sorted into plastics.
  • Plastic Bags
    All plastic bags, regardless if there is a プラ mark present or not, can be sorted into plastics. The exception is when the plastic bag is dirty.
  • Pumps
    Remove the pumps from bottles like shampoo and sort it into combustible garbage.
  • Others
    Other plastic products that you should not sort in plastics, but instead as combustibles are video tapes, buckets, plastic hangers, plastic cards or empty ball pens.

Once again, each municipality have their specific rules. For example, some municipality determine this by judging if the plastic is thicker than a cash card.

  • Soft plastics are plastics that are not thicker than a cash card should be sorted as plastics.
  • Hard plastics are plastics that are thicker than a cash card should be sorted as combustibles.

Cans

Cans will usually be collected on the same day as glass bottles. These are usually anything with the aluminum or steel recycle mark.

Aluminum cans (like those used to water your plants) and kettles can also be sorted into this category.

The metal lids or caps of food or drink cans should be sorted as incombustibles.

Glass Bottles

  • These will usually be collected on the same day as cans. In the garbage station, there will usually be separate baskets to put your cans and glass bottles.
  • If the contents cannot be cleaned, please sort it as incombustible garbage.
  • In some types of glass bottles like condiments, it comes with a plastic cap. In the case where the cap is difficult to remove, you don't have to force it apart.
  • Heat-resistant glass like baby bottles should be sorted as incombustible garbage.
  • Some municipality requires you to sort glass bottles by color, namely transparent, brown and others.

Spray Cans

Depending on the municipality, spray cans can be considered as either incombustibles or recyclable. In the latter case, you would be able to see a dedicated day for spray cans (スプレー缶) in the garbage calendar.

There aren't really many variations when it comes to spray cans, so these should be easy to sort.

PET Bottles

Basically any plastic bottle with the number one in a triangle mark. However, note that the labels and the caps should be sorted as plastic.

Some containers, like the large one attached to water dispensers, can come with either a PET bottle or plastic mark, so be sure to check to sort accurately.

Paper

This includes:

  • Cigarette boxes (sort the plastic film wrap as plastic and silver paper as combustibles)
  • Envelopes (sorting the plastic clear film as combustible)
  • Magazines
  • Namecards
  • Newspapers
  • Paper drink packets, like milk cartons
  • Paper files
  • Shredded paper
  • Tissue boxes
  • Toilet paper roll core

In the case where the paper has come in contact with kitchen waste or is wet, please sort them as combustibles.

However, there are certain type of papers that should not be sorted as paper as they contain certain properties and chemicals that will cause problems during the recycling process if mixed with other types of paper. They include the following (source):

  • Carbon paper, like the delivery slip at the post office
  • Composite material, like envelopes with bubble wrap or plastic padding
  • Cushioning material for fruits
  • Filling, padding or cushioning for shoes or bags
  • Laminate paper
  • Paper containers used to hold laundry powder
  • Paper cups
  • Paper used for building materials, like wallpaper or waterproofing sheet
  • Paper with food remnants, like pizza boxes or donut wraps
  • Paper with smells, like incense packaging
  • Paper with waterproof treatment
  • Parchment paper, like cooking sheet
  • Printed photos
  • Samples attached to catalogs or magazines
  • Soap or fabric softener packaging
  • Sublimation transfer paper
  • Synthetic paper or stone paper, like those used on maps or election posters
  • Thermal paper, like certain receipts
  • Used diapers
  • Waxed cardboard

Clothing

Besides the obvious t-shirts, pants etc, this category includes the following:

  • Blankets
  • Curtains
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Hats with brim
  • Scarfs
  • Silk kimonos
  • Underwear

However, the following should not be sorted into clothing, but instead, as combustibles:

  • Bed padding
  • Blankets or towels for pets
  • Carpets or rugs
  • Foot wipe mats
  • Items stuffed with cotton, like futons or cushions
  • Plush dolls
  • Slippers
  • Toilet seat covers

Clothing will usually be collected on the “paper” collection day. In cities where they do not specify that clothing has to be sorted separately, you should sort it as combustibles.

Note that while some cities allow you to sort this as combustible garbage, burning your clothes in a bonfire, to dispose of them, is against the law.

Similar to paper, the clothing have to be clean for it to be recycled. In some municipality, clothing that are too dirty or torn should be sorted into burnable garbage.

Oversized Garbage

This is a category of its own because it requires a special method of disposal.

What type of garbage is considered oversized? Once again, the specific dimensions differs from municipality to municipality. For example, in Chuo-ku, any item that has any of its sides measure more than 30cm is considered oversized.

A few things to note

  • Even if you break it apart or dismantle an oversized item, it is still considered oversized garbage.
  • If you have a furniture like a dresser or storage box, you cannot dispose of it without removing its contents.
  • Disposing of oversized garbage costs money. You will need to purchase a seal and paste it on the furniture. Read more here.
  • You have to call your city's oversized garbage reception center in advance. Do a search for your city followed by “粗大ごみ受付センター” (oversized garbage reception center), for example, “渋谷区 粗大ごみ受付センター”. Read here for more.

There are some items that cannot be disposed of by the above method, which includes

  • Aircon
  • Television
  • Refrigerator
  • Washing Machine
  • Dryer
  • Computer
  • Piano
  • Fire Extinguisher

Please refer to this section on how to dispose of them.

How to Prepare Garbage for Disposal in Japan

Think your work is done just by sorting your garbage? Not so fast. Even before you put that garbage in your trashcan, you have to prepare them for disposal. This is basic etiquette in Japan although there are varying standards for different people as to how far they will go. In this section, I will state the best practices.

Plastic Products (Combustibles)

Not to be confused with plastics (packaging).

In the case where the plastic product doesn't fit into the garbage bag but doesn't fulfill the size requirement for oversized garbage, you can paste a paper on it with the words “プラ”.

Otherwise, plastic products should be placed in a transparent garbage bag (if there aren't municipality-specific garbage bags you have to use), separate from the other kinds of combustibles.

Paper

Note that even with paper, you cannot bundle all types of paper together in one bundle. You have to bundle them into the following types.

  • Drink or food packets like milk cartons
    Rinse the contents with water, cut it open so that it can lay flat to dry. Bundle them in no more than about 30 pieces.
  • Cardboard
    Ensure that all carbon paper (the paper that imprints your address onto the below paper) has been removed.
  • Magazines or old books
    You do not have to remove the staples.
  • Newspapers
    Do not bundle with tape. You do not have to take out the leaflets. You do not have to remove the paper wrapping that comes with the newspaper.

Note that the way you bundle paper depends on the type of paper. For magazines, newspaper and cardboard, you would have to use rope. For the others, you can use a paper bag, envelope or paper box (note that this is different to cardboard box, which can't be used) to contain them.

Plastics

For plastic food containers like meat/fish trays or bento containers, be sure to wash and dry them before disposal. It doesn't have to be perfect spotless, ie. some marks leftover is okay.

PET Bottles

  • Rinse them clean and dry them. In the case where you can't clean them well enough, like oil or sauce bottles, sort them as combustibles instead.
  • Remove the cap and label. The labels usually come in a way that's easy to remove. These should be sorted as plastics.
  • Do not cut (except when it's otherwise impossible to clean thoroughly) or crush them as it makes it harder for reuse.

Broken Glass

If you throw out broken glass as it is, you risk causing injuries to those handling your garbage. Therefore, special precautions should be taken with the following steps:

  1. Use gummed tape to secure larger pieces of glass together and then wrap the broken glass in newspaper or blue sheet (the ones you get from Don Quixote for impromptu picnics). This will prevent the pieces of broken glass from being separated.
  2. Wrap it with newspaper or cardboard to protect those handling from getting cut. Where possible, use double or triple layers as the glass might cut through just one layer.
  3. Put it in a plastic bag and paste a tape to label it as broken glass by writing the characters “割れもの”.
  4. When putting it out, place it separately from the rest of the incombustibles in a manner where the sign can be noticed easily.

Note that the above only applies to broken glass that is not oversized. For how to dispose of oversized garbage, see here.

In the case where you do not want to risk injury by handling broken glass, there are specialists that can help. However, they aren't cheap. It can be about ¥20,000 depending on the size and volume of broken glass. Enquiring via the English hotline of your ward office will help you get the right contact.

Cans

  • Similar to the other types of recyclables, wash and dry the can.
  • Do not cut or crush the can as it makes it hard for reuse.
  • Remove any metal lids or tabs and sort those as incombustibles.

Kitchen Waste

While kitchen waste can be disposed of as combustibles, make sure the following is done. As a rule of thumb, kitchen waste should be as dry as possible when disposed. Here are a few ways to ensure this

  • Wrap wet kitchen waste in newspaper as the newsprint has an absorbent effect. You can also lay a cut-to-size newspaper in your kitchen waste trash bin. You can add a pinch of baking soda to keep it dry and prevent odors.
  • The other way, which is the way I do it, is to freeze them. Putting kitchen waste in your freezer eliminates odors completely.

What is the cost of garbage disposal in Japan?

This is another one of the factors that is dependent on where you live. For example, in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo garbage disposal is free.

However, in Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo you have to buy city-specific garbage bags. For both combustible and incombustible garbage, it costs ¥10 for 5ℓ, ¥20 for 10ℓ, ¥40 for 20ℓ, and ¥80 for 40ℓ for each garbage bag.

In Kyoto-shi, it costs ¥5 for 5ℓ, ¥10 for 10ℓ, ¥20 for 20ℓ, ¥30 for 30ℓ, and ¥45 for 45ℓ bags. Bags for recyclables are costed differently at ¥5 for 10ℓ, ¥10 for 20ℓ, ¥15 for 30ℓ, and ¥22 for 45ℓ bags.

Sorted the garbage bags with these organizers.

As you can see, the prices are different for each municipality. You can usually buy these garbage bags from the supermarkets or convenience stores.

Oversized Garbage Costs in Japan

No matter where you live, you have to pay for oversized garbage disposal. Note that the following costs do not apply to oversized electrical appliances that has separate disposal costs.

Basically, you have to head to the convenience store and buy a seal called 粗大ごみシール (sodai gomi shi iru). There are different types of seals which cost differently and you have to buy the one that corresponds with the oversized garbage you are disposing.

Once again, the pricing differs depending on where you live, but for reference, you can refer to the following prices

  • Vacuum cleaner – ¥400
  • Dishwasher – ¥1,200
  • Chair (under 70cm x 150cm) – ¥1,200
  • Mattress (single size) – ¥1,200
  • Treadmill – ¥2,000
  • Beach umbrella – ¥400

Home Refrigerator, Washing Machine, Television, and Air Conditioner Disposal Cost

For these four home electrical appliances, the costs are different. This one depends specifically on the manufacturer and size of the appliances. Here's how to find the exact prices.

As a reference, here is how the prices can look like:

  • Air Conditioner – ¥990
  • Television (15 inches and below) – ¥1,320-¥3,151
  • Television (16 inches and above) – ¥2,420-¥3,701
  • Washing Machine – ¥2,530-¥3,261

How to Dispose of Oversized Garbage in Japan?

So, what are the correct steps to disposing of oversized garbage in Japan? First of all, it's not like the rest of the garbage where you simply bring it down to the garbage station; there are a few more steps involved:

Step 1: Determine if your garbage is oversized

Basically, if any of the sides (height, width or depth) measure more than 30cm, it's oversized.

Step 1: Determine the cost of disposing oversized garbage

This part is tricky because different municipality have different costs and even different ways of costing.

TIP If you understand spoken Japanese, then skip to step 2.

For example, in the case of Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, they have a fixed price for the type of garbage, rather than the size.

  • Futon, Vacuum Cleaner, Chair (excl Sofa), Clothing Storage – ¥400
  • Bicycle (above 16 inches), Sofa (for one) – ¥800
  • Mattress (Single Bed) – ¥1,200
  • Sofa (for two) – ¥2,000

It's mostly the same for Meguro-ku, but they also have some types of oversized garbage that require you to measure to get the cost. Like in this example, for large storage units like a CD rack or locker, you would have to measure to get the cost.

Measuring and summing up the longest two sides of the item

  • Small (under 140cm) – ¥300
  • Medium (140cm-200cm) – ¥600
  • Large (200cm-270cm) – ¥1,000
  • Extra Large (270cm-350cm) – ¥1,700
  • Ultra Large (over 360cm) – ¥2,400

Sadly, there is no way to escape checking your municipality's specific pricing chart. You have to search for the keywords, [your city], followed by “粗大ごみ処理手数料表” which means “oversized garbage disposal fee table”. So, if you live in Shibuya-ku, then you should search for “渋谷区 粗大ごみ処理手数料表”.

Step 2: Apply in advance

You can't just bring down oversized garbage to your garbage station and be expected to be taken away. You have to inform the oversized garbage reception center of your municipality in advance. To get the number, do a search for [your city] followed by “粗大ごみ受付センター” (oversized garbage center), for example, “渋谷区 粗大ごみ受付センター”.

Many municipalities, like Meguro-ku for example, also have application by internet.

Tell them the following information (they will ask you for it, so please get them ready before calling)

  • Size of garbage
  • Number of garbage
  • Type of garbage, ie. futon, dresser, chair
  • Desired date of collection

The person on the phone will confirm the collection day and inform you of the cost and type of seals to buy, confirming your research in step 1.

Step 3: Buy the seal

Once you know the cost, you need to buy the seal. This is your way of paying the municipality for doing the work to take out your oversized garbage.

Luckily, buying the seal is extremely convenient, literally, since almost every convenience store, like Seven Eleven, LAWSON, FamilyMart, etc, in your area will have it. Supermarkets and drug stores will likely also sell them.

At the storem, the seals won't be displayed so you have to ask the cashier for the seal (sodai gomi shori ken) or you can just say “gomi seal” and they'll probably get it. Next, tell the casher which one you want at what price, based on the information in step 1 and 2. At times, multiple seals would have to be bought for one piece of garbage to hit the exact price.

For example, in the Shibuya-ku example, it costs ¥400 to dispose of an air humidifer, for which they specify that you should buy two pieces of the A seal at ¥200 each.

Step 4:

Now that you have the seal(s) in hand, you have to write your name on it and paste it on your oversized garbage. Then, bring it down on the day of collection before 8am. Take note of the following

  • Wipe off any dirt or moisture on the surface you are sticking it on, and stick it on firmly.
  • Once you stick the seal on, you cannot remove it and stick it again.
  • Please stick the correct number and type of seal as per the instructions when you called in to apply.

How to Dispose of the Four Home Appliances like Air Conditioner, Television, Refrigerator, and Washing Machine in Japan?

For a special group of four types of large electrical appliances, referred literally as four home appliances (家電4品目), you cannot simple dispose of it normally nor via the oversized garbage method. These are appliances that require specialists to dismantle and recycle. They are:

  • Air Conditioner
  • Washing Machine/Dryer
  • Refrigerator/Freezer
  • Television

An important distinction here is that the above only applies to home appliances. Professional grade appliances like refrigerators used in a restaurant's kitchen, temperature regulator of rice, or ice cream freezers used in shops cannot be disposed of in this manner.

There are a few ways you can dispose of them:

Method 1: Get it taken away when you buy a new one

When you buy a new refrigerator, reputable stores like Bic Camera or Yamada Denki, will usually offer to help dispose of your existing one as part of their service. I would advise you to take advantage of it.

Method 2: Dispose it yourself

When my washing machine broke down, my brother-in-law gave me his unused one. In this case, I had to get rid of the broken one myself. Doing it yourself is probably the cheapest way to do so.This is how you do it:

Step 1: Identify the model of your appliance

Basically, you need to take a photo of the specifications which can be found on a sticker behind the appliance. It will contain information like the manufacture name and voltage.

Step 2: Buy the recycle ticket

Unlike the seal for oversized garbage, only one place sells the ticket; the post office.

You need to go down to the post office and buy a ticket. Show the clerk the photo, with the manufacturer's name and size being the most important pieces of information for him or her to determine the cost. With that, the clerk will tell you exactly how much you need to pay for the ticket.

Step 3: Bring it to a recycling center

This part is the most tedious part. I had to borrow a car and get help stuffing a broken washing machine into a small car and bring it down to a recycling center. To find the nearest recycling center, do a search for [your city] followed by “家電リサイクル券センター”. For example, if you live in Shibuya-ku, you would search for “渋谷区 家電リサイクル券センター”. You can also find on from this link.

Most Japanese would request a company to collect it for them, at an extra cost. The keyword to search here is “家電リサイクルショップ” which means “home appliances recycle shop”.

Conclusion

As you can see, garbage disposal isn't the easiest walk in the park, but something you'll get used to after some time. If you have any questions that haven't been answered in this guide, please leave a comment and I will add the answer. I hope this has been helpful and enjoy your life in Japan.

Tagged guide japan life