by Ewa Nowogorski
America does not have too many regulations for dictating how people should throw away their trash. Separation is highly encouraged for burnables, plastics, cans, and paper, but it is not strictly enforced. And people can usually throw away large furniture on the side of the road, such as bed frames or mattresses, without any permission or prior warning. In fact, there are often cockroach and bed bug problems due to this.
But in Japan, you cannot do the same. You must buy designated trash bags for certain types of trash, and you can only throw away certain types of trash on certain days. And every ward, every city, every prefecture has its different trash days and trash bags. Your local convenience store and supermarket will always sell the right trash bag for your area, but you cannot buy trash bags for burnable trash in Hokkaido and expect to be able to use them in Tokyo. And if you use the wrong kind of bag or have the wrong type of trash in it when the garbage disposal workers come to pick up your trash, they will reject it, leaving a very noticeable notice on the top of the bag for you and all your neighbors to see.
In addition to having to pay for your own trash bags, you also need to to pay to dispose of larger household items. Items that cannot fit inside 40 liter bags or large electric appliances need to be paid for to be disposed of. Again, each city and ward has its own rules, but you normally have to purchase special stickers online and reserve a day and time for your trash to be picked up. I recently threw away a bicycle, and it cost me 1000 yen to do so. I had to reserve a special day and attach the sticker I bought onto that bicycle to prove that I was legally disposing of it.
Large waste disposal is always an issue for people, and sometimes people will try to sell their old furniture and appliances for really low prices on websites like craigslist and mercari to avoid paying these disposal fees. But getting caught for illegal dumping carries a much heavier fine than these disposal fees, so illegal dumpers beware!