While the ongoing 新型コロナウイルスの感染拡大 (shingata korona uirusu no kansen kakudai, spread of infection of the novel coronavirus) has (a little paradoxically, perhaps) forced many of us to 外出自粛 (gaishutsu jishuku, voluntarily refrain from going out), this increased time spent within has had one very small, Marie Kondo-shaped silver lining: decluttering our homes. In my case, that means getting rid of some 粗大ごみ/大型ごみ (sodai gomi/ōgata gomi, lit. “large garbage”).

粗大ごみ is anything over 30 centimeters — though not over 180 cm, unless the item can be broken down — in length on any side. Note that this is a very general definition; some areas, such as Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, have a limit of 220 cm, and some, like Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, even differentiate between electrical and nonelectrical goods, with a starting point of 30 cm for the former, and 50 cm for the latter.

Whatever the exact size, 家具 (kagu, furniture), 電気製品 (denki seihin, electronics) and other 私物 (shibutsu, personal belongings) are definitely included in 粗大ごみ.

Three distinct exceptions apply, however. Goods that fall under the 家電リサイクル法 (kaden risaikuru hō, Home Appliance Recycling Law) such as エアコン (eakon, air conditioners), テレビ (terebi, TVs), 冷蔵庫 (reizōko, fridges), 冷凍庫 (reitōko, freezers), 洗濯機 (sentakuki, washing machines) and 衣類乾燥機 (irui kansōki, dryers) are all in the first group of exceptions — these items must be recycled (for a fee) by contacting the place of purchase.

Things considered to be 適正処理困難物 (tekisei shori konnan-butsu, items difficult to dispose of properly) such as 自動車 (jidōsha, cars), オートバイ (ōtobai, motorcycles), タイヤ (taiya, tires), ピアノ (piano, pianos), バッテリー (batterī, [car, motorcycle] batteries), 消火器 (shōkaki, fire extinguishers), コンクリートブロック (konkurīto burokku, concrete blocks) and ガスボンベ (gasu bonbe, gas canisters) are in the second group of exceptions.

The third group includes old パソコン (pasokon, PCs), which are not considered 粗大ごみ under the 資源有効利用促進法 (shigen yūkō riyō sokushin hō, Law for the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources). The manufacturer of your computer should be able to dispose of it for you.

Unlike other forms of ごみ収集 (gomi shūshū, garbage collection) in Japan, getting rid of 粗大ごみ requires you to set a date when you would like your ごみ (gomi, garbage) to be taken away. The next step in your quest to cleanse is to contact your local 粗大ごみ受付センター (sodai gomi uketsuke sentā, bulky waste reception center) and, either via phone or online, book a 収集日 (shūshū-bi, collection date).

If you’d prefer to simply take your 粗大ごみ directly to a ごみ処理施設 (gomi shori shisetsu, garbage processing facility), you may — though only in certain parts of Japan. Once you’ve chosen when you’d like your ごみ to be collected (and stated how much of it there is [bearing in mind there is a 10-item limit for collection]), one final step remains: 支払い (shiharai, payment).

It costs money to have your large garbage taken away in Japan, and the 支払い itself is done in the form of シール (shīru, stickers) called 粗大ごみ処理券 (sodai gomi shori ken, processing tags for large garbage), which are sometimes known as 納付券 (nōfu ken, payment tags) in certain parts of the country like Kawaguchi in Saitama Prefecture. They can be purchased at your local convenience store or supermarket, and they usually come in denominations of hundreds of yen.

The number of シール required will depend on the item. For example, in Tokyo’s Minato Ward it would cost ¥400 to have your アイロン台 (airon dai, ironing board) taken away, and so two ¥200 券 (ken, tags) would be needed (a list of prices and retailers that sell the tags can usually be found on the relevant municipality webpage). Once the necessary amount has been purchased, they are then stuck onto your items (with your name, and room number if you live in an apartment complex).

All that remains now is for the ごみ to be put in a わかりやすい場所 (wakari-yasui basho, easy-to-understand place) where it can be clearly seen by garbage collectors. If, owing to age or disability, it would prove difficult to dispose of the 粗大ごみ without assistance, the local municipality should be able to dispatch a ふれあい収集 (fureai shūshū, community collector) team, who will come inside the house and collect the garbage there.

So, if it feels like your place needs emptying, why not go big?

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