How to Sort out Garbage in Japan – Japanese Words Related to Throwing Garbage Away

Throwing Out Garbage In Japan

Garbage is not just something you can throw away easily, there is a large level of preparation needed before you can pitch things out in the bin and it pays to understand it so that you can make sure your neighbors are pleased with you. 🙂
I mean, the Japanese have got to love the environment to have even dedicated a holiday to nature known as Greenery Day!
In this handy guide – we will explain the ins and outs of throwing things out, including how to clean your trash and separate it, as well as the vocabulary that you will need to understand signs associated with it.  We will also go over how to throw out oversized garbage, including how to schedule a pickup and where to purchase the stickers you need for a pickup.

Regular Garbage
Plastic Container Recyclables
Non-burnable Garbage
Oversized Garbage
Common Garbage Vocabulary Terms

Regular Garbage

In Japan, regular or non-recyclable garbage is referred to as ()やすごみ (moyasu gomi) or 可燃(かねん)ごみ (kanen gomi). Both refer to burnable trash.  Items that are considered burnable trash are things like food waste, old clothes, and paper waste.
The term (なま)ごみ (nama gomi) is used to describe kitchen waste, such as fruit/vegetable peel, egg shells, and any other food item that may leave an unpleasant odor if left in the trash for too long.  Japanese people often separate their (なま)ごみ (nama gomi) or raw garbage in a separate bag and throw it out right away or wrap it up in a newspaper to prevent bad smells.  This is particularly important in the summer as Japan’s summers can get quite humid and hot.

()やすごみ (moyasu gomi) is usually picked up by the city twice per week. Depending on where you live, there may be a garbage room where you can leave your trash at any time or you may have to take out the trash on your own.  If you have to do it on your own, you’ll likely see an area on the street where people leave their trash out on the morning of pick up days.  There’s usually a net covering the trash to prevent crows from getting to the trash.  Please also take note of the time you need to take the trash out by. In most cities, you should take out the trash by 8AM.


Recyclables are referred to as 資源(しげん)ごみ (shigen gomi).  Recycling is a bit of a big deal in Japan.  In Japan, you are expected to separate your recyclables into these three different types: カン (kan): cans, びん (bin): glass bottles, and ペットボトル (petto botoru): plastic bottles.  In Japan, it is best practice to take off the wrapping of plastic bottles before recycling.  Most manufacturers in Japan perforate the wrapping on their bottles to make it easier for the consumer to take off the wrapping.
In some cities, foam trays and boxes are included in this type of trash and should be taken out with cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles.
Cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles are usually picked up once a week on a designated day of the week.  If you must take out the trash on your own, you can leave your recyclables in a designated area on the street on the mornings of pick up days.
sorting garbage in japan - recyclable bottles cans bottles
sorting garbage in japan - how to recycle pet bottles infographic

sorting garbage in japan - boxes for different garbage

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Plastic Container Recyclables

In Japan, there is also a class of garbage called 容器(ようき)包装(ほうそう)リサイクル (youki housou risaikuru) which refers to plastic items that have this particular mark on them.  Examples of items in this class include plastic shampoo bottles, plastic food trays, and plastic yogurt containers.  You should wash and clean these items before sending them out for recycling.

Depending on the city, the designated day for taking out this type of recycling may be different from the cans/plastic bottles/glass bottles day.
sorting garbage in japan - how to recycle plastic containers packaging infographic
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Non-burnable Garbage

There is another type of trash called ()やさない (moyasanai gomi) or 不燃(ふねん)ごみ (funen gomi) in Japan.  Both mean non-burnable trash. Items in this category require more careful handling as they could be dangerous to the environment or people.  Examples of ()やさないごみ (moyasanai gomi) are glass materials (such as light bulbs, glass containers for makeup or medications), spray cans, cooking pans, knives and lighters.
()やさないごみ (moyasanai gomi) is usually picked up twice a month in most cities, usually designated as something like the first and third Friday.
sorting garbage in japan - how to recycle incombustible items infographic

Oversized Garbage

Oversized garbage is called 粗大(そだい)ごみ (sodai gomi) in Japanese.  Each city may have a different definition of what is considered 粗大(そだい)ごみ (sodai gomi), but it’s usually items over ~30 centimeters in length.  Compared to other countries, Japan’s system of throwing out oversized garbage can be quite complicated and you must pay for these services.
Let’s say you want to throw out an old bicycle, you would first have to call or sign up online for a pickup appointment.  For disposal of a bicycle, it would cost about 800 yen in Tokyo.  After you make your appointment, you will be informed of what type of stickers, or 粗大(そだい)ごみ処理(しょり)(けん) (sodai gomi shori ken) to buy.  These stickers are applied to your 粗大(そだい)ごみ (sodai gomi) as proof of purchase of disposal services.  You can buy these stickers from most of your neighborhood convenience stores.  On the appointed day of pick up, you can place these stickers on your bike and place it outside for pick up.  All that to throw away an old bicycle!
Sorting out garbage in Japan – Japanese words for Trash
If you moved into a new place, and don’t know where to put the trash away, you can ask real estate agent or landlord,

「すみません、ゴミはどこに出せばいいですか?」Where should I put the trash away? 

Common Garbage Vocabulary Terms

ごみを出す (gomi o dasu ) – put garbage away
資源(しげん) (shigen), リサイクル – recycle
容器(ようき)包装(ほうそう) (youki housou)- plastic containers
ごみ を分別(ふんべつ)する (bunbetsu suru) – to separate trash
ごみ を収集(しゅうしゅう)する (shuushuu) – to collect trash
発砲(はっぽう)トレイ (happou torei) – foam tray
発砲(はっぽう)スチロール (happou suchiro-ru) – foam boxes
古紙(こし) (koshi) – used paper
びん (bin) – glass bottle
(かん) (kan) – can
ペットボトル (petto botoru) – plastic bottle
粗大(そだい)ごみ (sodai gomi) – oversized garbage
粗大(そだい)ごみ処理(しょり)券 (けん)(sodai gomi shori ken) – oversized garbage disposal sticker
()やすごみ (moyasu gomi) – burnable garbage
可燃(かねん)ごみ (kanen gomi) – burnable garbage
()やさないごみ (moyasanai gomi) – un-burnable garbage
不燃(ふねん)ごみ (funen gomi)- un-burnable garbage
(なま)ごみ (nama gomi)- raw garbage
The rules for garbage in Japan are determined by each city and may differ from place to place.
An Additional Note: If you’d like to help keep the environment sustainable and green, remember to refuse the use of plastic bags and convenience stores! A little goes a long way!

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