Experience Japan like a local

How To Sort Your Trash Like a Pro in Tokyo

Trash sorting can be a daunting task,whether you are at the convenience store, train station or a vacation rental. So many different containers…what to do?

Categories and methods of sorting garbage vary from area to area, so be sure to get detailed instructions from your host. Some areas require you to purchase neighborhood-specific trash bags, while other places allow the use of any plastic bags. If special bags are required, you can usually purchase them at supermarkets, drugstores or convenience stores in that area.


Some examples of garbage bags used in Tokyo

Different categories of trash are taken out on different days of the week, and certain categories may only be picked up a couple times a month. Confirm the trash schedule with your host.

Some complexes have trash areas where you can toss different categories of trash into bins at any time. Other places may not allow you to take out trash until the day of pickup. In this situation, pay attention to the garbage pickup time. If you are late, you will need to bring the trash back home and wait for the next pickup date. Failing to sort and put out trash properly may cause trouble for your host, so try your best to follow the rules!

Here are a few commonly encountered categories of trash:


  • Glass bottles

  • PET bottles
    (plastic drink bottles) – you usually need to separate the cap from the bottle. Some containers have a separate slot just for the bottle caps.
  • Cans
  • Plastics – many areas distinguish between PET bottles and plastics. Styrofoam may be included in plastics.
  • Burnable/combustible trash (“moeru gomi”) – food waste, paper, foil, cloth, etc. Your neighborhood may require special trash bags for this type of trash.
  • Non-burnable/non-combustible trash (“moenai gomi”) – metal, glass (not bottles), dishes, electronics, etc. Your neighborhood may require special trash bags for this type of trash.

– If your food comes in a plastic container, and it’s not easy to wash the food residue off, you may be able to toss it into the “burnable trash” (double check with the rules of your area).

– Generally, toss liquids down the sink rather than throwing them in the trash.

– When in public and unsure of which bin to use, take a peek to see what others have done and use that as a reference.

Trash sorting rules are confusing, even for locals, so don’t stress!

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