Recycling Tokyo-style

Is there any country that knows how to throw stuff out like Japan?  After a lengthy visit to the US, I was awestruck once again by the orderly disposal I witness here weekly.  Let’s take recycling. On designated days, city-run trucks make the rounds and gather in the glass, metal, plastic and paper for re-use. In preparation, everyone places their contributions in separate, plastic bins set out near the street. The chaos caused by combining everything in one large vessel, as is the practice in parts of the US, is conspicuously absent. Just look at how carefully my neighbors discard their empties!


Neatly arranged in rows, these spent tins are practically a work of art. While metal cans must be placed in the blue bins supplied by the city, glass bottles go in the yellow ones.


And then there are the PET bottles. Held in a plastic net bag, each one is rinsed and label-free.

Newspapers are a whole other animal. They must be properly bundled and tied with string. This iconic image was the inspiration for Bind, Satoshi Umeno’s clever end table. Featured in my book, “Made in Japan: 100 New Products” (check out this link to learn more), it consists of a simple, glass top wrapped with steel strips reminiscent of rope. As the designer pointed out to me, this table makes a pile of paper, neat or messy, look great!


One Comment on “Recycling Tokyo-style”

  1. Hey Naomi

    Looks like you’re back in the Land of Orderly Trash. Do you think it’s possible to draw some conclusions about “Japanese national character” from details such as these or is that too facile?

    Sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you while you were in the States. Maybe next time.

    You must have been very proud to bring your daughter (Abby?) to the University of Light and Truth. I would have been. Congratulations.

    We’ve made the move to the UP and we’re frantically trying to find someone to plow the 26 feet of snow expected for this winter. How does one get to work on time when it snows every day for months and a good plower will plow three times a day? I’ll let you know.

    If and when you see Teru give her a kiss for me.

    Take care and be well.


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