A Quickie // The Complexities of Throwing Away Trash in Kyoto

One of my first “adventures” living in Kyoto was deciphering the mesmerizingly complex trash dispensing system. No, it’s not as straightforward as “trash” versus “recycling.” Instead, there’s at least 6 different ways to separate trash. Not only do you have to learn what exactly goes into a “プラ” or plastic bag, but you also have to clean the interior of all items such as bento boxes, almond butter cans, used natto containers, etc. Most places even require you to remember what days specific types of trash can be thrown out.


During my first day at my current dorm, Ohbaku International House, they provided me with visual information guide about how exactly to separate the trash. For the first two weeks or so, I had to repeatedly check the documents to ensure that I was following the rules. It’s horrifically complex when you first arrive, but it’s also reassuring to know that Japanese people have cleverly figured out a way to reduce trash, and support a healthy environment for all.

From the American perspective, it’s astounding to know that Japanese people even follow the rules. I can’t even imagine this type of complicated system ever working in America. Right now, the majority of states have a recycling program, but not all. And while San Francisco is one of the few cities to even offer composting. Hopefully, things will change in the near future, as we continue to become a more globalized society.

Now that’s it been nearly 3.5 months, I find it a clear system for organizing and dispensing trash. In fact, it doesn’t bother me at all to abide by these rules, as I fundamentally feel like I am helping the environment by doing so. Unexpectedly, I find it an amazing addition to living in Kyoto, Japan.