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When off-base residents don’t sort garbage properly, the mistakes can damage Japanese sorting machines, and most times Japanese trash haulers won’t pick up items not bagged or sorted properly.

For most municipal governments in Japan, the garbage is collected at precise times and places in specific types of bags. Housing offices, landlords and the cities themselves can help residents learn the rules. Many base housing offices offer calendars in English with a city’s trash days.

Nao Aoki, intercultural-relations training technician from Yokosuka Naval Base, offers off-base residents a course entitled “Your Japanese Home” that, among other things, deals with proper recycling.

City officials say Americans often don’t separate properly or use the black plastic bags sold on base but not authorized for city trash collection.

Trash collectors then leave improperly sorted or unauthorized bags behind, leaving the city to deal with the mess.

“We want them to follow the rules,” said one city official in Yokosuka. “Especially during this time of the year when the garbage smells and causes a lot of trouble. We are having a tough time.”

On Okinawa, off-base residents’ garbage is collected under a special contract with private companies. One company, Koza Jujiro, only requires residents to separate their trash into burnable and nonburnable, said owner Kenjin Kaneshima, and most comply.

“About 90 percent of them cooperate and follow the rules,” he said. “But, sometimes, there is trash that is not separated at all. We try our best and separate it by ourselves, but if it is repeated, we must leave the trash behind.”

The following guidelines for Yokosuka City is an example of how garbage collection works in Japanese cities.

• Burnable garbage includes items such as kitchen garbage, clam shells, nonrecyclable paper, leather items, leaves, branches and disposable diapers.

• Nonburnable garbage includes glass, ceramics, rubber, plastic items, aluminum foil, lighters, paint cans, cameras.

• Cans, bottles, PET bottles and cans need to be rinsed. PET bottles have a recycle mark that looks like a triangle with the number “one” in the middle.

• Aerosol cans need to be completely empty and bottle caps need to be removed.

• Plastic containers and packaging include food trays, cartons, lids, cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags, Styrofoam, nets and tubes. Plastic containers with the recycle mark, which looks like a square with a Japanese word in the middle, can be recycled. All containers need to be emptied and rinsed.

• Newspapers, magazines, cardboards, paper cartons, clothes and other items are collected by local community groups.

• Large items such as furniture and appliances are collected by cities for a fee. Some bases will accept these items. Check the housing office for details.

• Air conditioners, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines need to be collected by the retail shops for recycling fees based on the Electric Appliance Recycling Law. These items cannot be collected as large size garbage by cities.

— Staff writers Juliana Gittler, Hana Kusumoto and Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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