So-dai-gomi (large rubbish): how to deal with it

by Paul Goodchild

When you have over-sized rubbish – that is, large items that don’t fit into your normal rubbish bags, you have to go through certain procedures to get rid of them.   I’m referring here to normal large size waste that is bigger than 30cm x 30cm x 30cm, and not home appliances and personal computers.

In Japan, this type of rubbish is called 粗大ごみ (sodai-gomi) and requires application to your city council with a pick-up arrangement and corresponding charge depending on the type and size of the item.  Here are the basics:

The Process

3 basic steps are required to complete this process and I’ll break it down to make it as foolproof as possible:

  1. Call.  You need to call garbage collection service to detail your goods and when they will be picked up.  Depending on the city within which you live, this schedule may operate as often as once per week or a little as once per month.  There’s not a lot you can do about this except just call and home for the best, unless you already know their schedule.  The number to call is: 03-5296-7000.  Whether there is an English service there or not, I don’t know, but best to give it a ring and try and see.  Ask them if they understand English (‘Eigo wakarimasu ka’) and hopefully they’ll pass you on to someone who does.   If you live in Tokyo, and your Japanese reading ability is up to scratch, you can now book collections online.  Here is the link to start the process… pick your city ward if it’s supported and follow the links/buttons until you reach the application form you need.
  2. Pay.  Depending on your rubbish size and type, it will cost a certain amount of money.  You don’t pay the pick-up guys directly, you buy coupons from your local convenience store.  Be careful though, ensure that when you do so that the coupons you’re buying are for the city ward you live in.  Sometimes certain convenience stores may be on the border of wards and you can end up buying the wrong ones.  Coupons come in 2 flavours: A (300 yen) and B (400 yen).  With these you’ll be able to mix and match to reach the price point you need.  For example, a couch that costs 1500 yen to dispose of will require you to buy Ax1 + Bx3.  Usually they will tell you what combination to buy and I don’t know if there’s any significance in that, but I’m sure it doesn’t make any difference.
  3. Prepare.  On arranged day of pick-up, put the items out for 8am and attach your coupons to the items with your name and address written on the spaces provided.  This ensured everything matches up when the boys come around to pick them up.

And you’re done.  It’s that simple.  Check with your city council’s website for more details, especially if you don’t live in Tokyo since it’s only with Tokyo that I have experience with.  If you have any experience for your place of residence such that it differs from what I’ve said, please feel free to leave a comment below.  For some links to council websites, please take a look at another article I wrote that has some references to them.

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