One of the biggest differences I have noticed in the US and Japan on this study abroad program (other than the culture and language) is how differently they treat trash disposal. Everywhere in Japan, from train stations to household garbage, bins are separated in a manner to make the recycling and incineration processes more efficient.
Municipal solid waste (MSW) is often called trash and is a term that includes everyday household wastes. The amount of MSW a person produces is a lot higher than what I expected it to be in the US (over four pounds a day), whereas Japanese produce a lot less (around 2 pounds a day). In Japan, from my observations, trash is often separated into combustible wastes, cans/bottles, newspapers/magazines, and plastics/PET and this system of trash separation is present in a majority of places. Whereas, in the US, trash disposal is often split into only two categories: non-recyclables and recyclables (but more often than not it is all mixed into the same bin). In Japan, most MSW is incinerated and in the US most MSW is put into a landfill.
What normal trash bin separation probably looks like in most of the US. (Image from transtech)
What normal trash bin separation looks like in most of Japan. (Image from Stock News USA)
Most of the Japanese trash bins are clearly labeled in Japanese and English to ensure that waste is disposed of correctly, as do American trash bins (the only issue is that a lot of trash bins in the US do not have separate sections for different types of garbage). Since Japanese trash bins are built in with a separation that almost all people follow it is easy for Japanese trash to get recycled appropriately, whereas American trash bins often have non-recyclable materials in the recycle bin and vice-versa which makes the process of recycling a lot more difficult and time-consuming.