What to do with Garbage While Travellng in Japan? Where are all the Trash Cans?!!!

Some great advice on how to handle trash while exploring the Land of the Rising Sun

Are you used to having plenty of garbage cans everywhere?
When I go home to the US, I am pleasantly surprised with the availability of garbage cans and how we can always find a place to dispose of paper waste, plastic bottles, candy wrappers and lunch leftovers that build up during the day.

Have you been walking around the cities in Japan feeling absolutely confused about where to throw trash? Literally no trashcans in site and public parks, etc., actually want you to take your trash home....even when you don’t live here! Lugging around trash all day to take home to your hotel? Hmmm.....not fun.

Okay, so what do us locals do?
We have the same trash problems, so where do we put it?
Here are some trash disposal hints from a 28-year resident for your reference and I hope this helps you get through the day....trash free :)

1. Trains, train stations and train platforms always have ample garbage bins.
Whenever you ride a train, make sure to dispose of extra trash in bins located just inside the train door before you get off, or, if you find a bathroom on a train, a garbage bin for disposing of plastic bottles/cans and other trash will be nearby.

Train platforms will always have relatively large trash bins at the ticket gate so before you leave the station or maybe while you are walking around, you can stop at any train station to dispose of your waste.

2. Convenience stores. Although the convenience stores don’t want your throwing your household waste in their garbage bins (the bins are pretty much reserved for garbage produced via purchases at the store), various convenience stores do their part for the community by providing ample trash receptacles either inside or outside of the store. If you have a few empty plastic bottles or some paper trash, no one at the convenience store will mind if you hop in and throw away your garbage there. You can also usually use toilets at convenience stores and buy tissue, bug repellent, water, snacks, and gifts for folks back home and more. Not only for the garbage bins, convenience stores are actually really fun to explore.

3. Vending machines! Yep, you guessed it! Since there is data that says there is one vending machine for every three people in Japan....there are definitely a huge amount of these machines, literally all over the place! Vending machines are required to have receptacles for the items sold, so you will always find a bin for bottles and cans attached to or next to a vending machine. It is VERY tempting to throw paper waste into these receptacles, but most are only for bottles and cans so resist the urge to put all your trash in there as much as possible.

If you Look closely, You'll see Bins are More Available than you Thought

As a little afterthought, traditionally, it is not considered polite in Japan to eat or drink while walking. I am sure you will see more and more people doing it, but a possible reason for the lack of trash cans will be that people will usually sit down in a cafe, restaurant or stand around a convenience store and eat or drink before setting out.

Just like fixing makeup in the train or speaking loudly on a cell phone in a public place is rarely seen in Japan, eating and drinking is considered somewhat of a private and planned affair.

People will have lunch and snacks on a longer train ride or in the green first class car, or you might see people sitting out in the park for a picnic or enjoying an outdoor cafe, but it is quite rare for someone to eat or drink on the go as they walk on the sidewalk or sit in a relatively filled bus or commuter train. The best way to know whether you are eating or drinking in a proper manner is to simply look around. If no one else is doing it...it probably isn’t done.


Former Deep Japan Writer

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