I took these photos on one of my morning walks in Kobe last week:
In Japan, garbage that doesn’t fit into the standard 45-liter garbage bags is defined as oversized garbage (sodai gomi).
In most places, to dispose of this garbage you need to call a special number and get a specific pick-up date. In busy times, such as after the new-year cleaning, there can be a 2-3 weeks wait… After the date is fixed, you need to go to a government office or an authorized shop (usually a convenience store) and buy a sticker in the amount appropriate for the garbage you are throwing away. In the photos above, the disposal cost for the piece of furniture is 900 Yen (about $7.5) and for the suitcase 300 Yen (about $2.5). The sticker goes on the garbage, which is taken out on the morning of the appointed date (and not earlier).
Now, while this may seem a little burdensome (and it is), the end result has two main benefits: the streets are free of garbage people just throw away, and most of this garbage gets recycled.
An interesting twist to this policy is that nowadays most prefectures do not allow people to simply take this garbage from the street if they like it, unless they get permission from the person who threw it away. Rest assured that the one of the ever-watchful old ladies of the neighborhood will catch you trying and reprimand you. In the bubble days of the 1980s this policy did not exist, and many people furnished their houses by picking up sodai gomi furniture and appliances from the street…
(This is a post in the series “Why Japan is the Closest Place to Paradise“)