Sodai Gomi: Please take away my bed

Nobody quite does trash like the Japanese do. Attribute it to their cleanliness or their lack of landfill real-estate, there’s a meticulous system that every Japanese person has ingrained into them from childhood. A foreigner will always find it a chore to remember all the rules. On an everyday basis, you get used to it. You get used to washing out milk cartons, laying them out to dry, and placing them all in a single bag to be placed out on Tuesday (and no other day of the week). Even the extra step of wrapping a knife blade in layers of paper to prevent cutting the hand of the garbage collector becomes something you just do. All these customs just make sense. It’s as if we’re actually trying to be decent people.

Sure, most garbage is bagged. It’s not that different from the American process of placing bag after bag into large bins with wheels, but what happens when what you want to throw away just can’t fit with the rest of the trash? Well, there’s an entire procedure for that: 粗大ゴミ処理(sodai gomi shori).

Anyone planning to live in Japan better understand this. It’s cheap, but it’s time consuming.

For the past few days, I’ve been preparing to move from my current apartment to a college dormitory. I had to get rid of an old bookcase, broken chair, wobbly desk, and futon bed. I couldn’t just leave these in front of my apartment building. That would just become a traffic obstruction. Plus, I’d probably be fined.

Instead, I submitted a form online a week ago (from yesterday) stating what I wanted removed. The soonest you can ask for collection is after 3 three days, but choosing a week gives you time to prepare. The steps were more or less:

  1. Access your city website (http://www.city.itabashi.tokyo.jp/)
  2. Locate area’s garbage company page (http://sodai.tokyokankyo.or.jp/pag/Main.aspx?CityCode=13119)
  3. Fill out form
    1. Specify what you want removed
    2. Fill out name, address, intended date of pick-up
  4. Receive confirmation
  5. Buy payment stickers
  6. Set items out before 8 AM of designated day.

In my case, I had to access Itabashi City’s website and find the garbage company of the area’s webpage to send in my request form. That was the easy part.

When filling out the form, you had to specify the type of item. This is because price isn’t based on the number of times you use the service, but on what you want to throw away. For example, a single chair requires 300 円 but a full fledged desk costs 1000円. For a list: http://sodai.tokyokankyo.or.jp/(S(fzz3spobnzejqqyr0adwawxs))/pag/ItemList.aspx?CityCode=13119.

For the keen eye, you might have noticed A券 and B券 columns. The picture below shows what those are:

DSC00795
Sodai Gomi Proof of Payment Stickers

These are seals that must be stuck onto the item in order to be removed. Without these, the collector would simply leave the piece there, even if you submitted the form. Remember when I said each item had a price? That’s what these stickers stand in for.

DSC00807
The back of the stickers, showing confirmation seal and price.

A tickets cost 200 while B tickets cost 300 a piece. So, the desk I wanted to throw would cost me 2 B’s and 2 A’s, which adds up to 1000円. In fact, throwing away the bed cost me the same. These can be purchased at any convenience store… which, is highly convenient.

DSC00799
Stuck onto the desk.

On the front you’re required to write the date of pick-up, name, and confirmation number (sent by email). Only then can the object be placed outside. BUT be sure that the earliest you set it out is the night before the designated date, or you might be cited by an officer (or just be labeled the neighborhood jerk).

One word of warning. Garbage collectors don’t help you move anything out of your house. Do not count on any service to help you carry a heavy piece of furniture done, you’ll have to do that yourself.

All in all, I spent 3000円 (30 USD) to get rid of all my furniture.

 

Cheap or expensive? Comment below.

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