We're in the temporary house, and getting back into a groove.
Disclaimer: this post is long… and largely about poop. So I split it in two - part 1 now, part 2 in a few days. Now you know.
Japan is a small island nation. I think that’s pretty common knowledge, and a horse that I’ve rather beaten to death here already, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.
There are some societal rules which come along with being a small space holding a LOT of people. Trash is one of those things.
When you don’t have space to create landfills, you HAVE to recycle what you can. And what you can’t recycle needs to be burned. And in order to keep the burning at a minimum, you have to be careful about how your trash is sorted. This is all obvious and logical.
Great. I’m a bit of a hippie, I can get behind recycling. But let’s take a peek at the track record of my homeland: in a country where recycling programs exist everywhere; even in states where they will actually PAY YOU to recycle your cans and bottles… Americans are super poor at allowing themselves to be inconvenienced in saving the earth.
|(less a cartoon and more a documentary from our future.)|
Because it’s easier to just toss whatever you’re holding in the nearest trash can (of which there are plenty in the states) and move on to the next fast-food restaurant. Relying on people to do something good just out of the goodness of their hearts has not proven to be a widely successful way to implement recycling efforts. Or any effort, really.
Our trash schedule, and our sortable trash bin. Cat for scale.
Super-nerd bit from my grad degree: How do people develop morality, learn right and wrong versus how they decide to behave? Morality isn’t something that comes built into a person, and just like bodies, they develop and grow, lead to horrific, unspeakable things during their puberty years, and then sort of mellow out with adulthood.
If you’re curious, here’s the Campbell’s Condensed Soup Version of how people develop decision making in regard to morals:
Stage 1: How do I avoid punishment?
Stage 2: What’s in it for me/ What do I gain?
Stage 3: What does society expect of me, so that I can fit in?
Stage 4: What does the Law require of me?
Stage 5: What are my values and beliefs, and how do they fit with this decision?
Stage 6: I will act justly because it is right, not because I fear consequence, aspire to gain, or have any previous expectations.
Stage 6 is some Dali Llama shiz. Most people don’t ever get there. Seriously.
So. When you can’t rely on any one person’s strong moral ethics, how do you drive an entire society to faithfully recycle and trash-sort every day, 365, 24/7? Well, I’ll tell you how Japan does it: Guilt/ intimidation/ peer pressure.
If ever there was a society that adhered to rules and regulations, Japan is it. In regard to trash, it means there is a startling scarcity of public trash cans - you are expected to bring your trash home and sort it.
All the trash is sorted into different bags according to what exactly that trash is. Those bags, with color coded printing, are largely CLEAR. Since all the trash is put out in those clear bags on the curb for collection (though only on the correct day for that kind of bag!) boy howdy, people will not hesitate to judge/ shame/ tell you off if you put the wrong thing in the wrong bag. (aka Stage 1 or kinda 3. So you hit everyone at the lowest level for 100% good moral behavior saturation. Gold Star on that, Japan)
I tell you what: The fear of being told off in Japanese works for me as well. I’ve got that stupid trash sorting chart so committed to memory, I have nightmares of bottle caps flying around my head screaming about how I didn’t rinse the milk carton well enough. I’ll be damned though if I don’t spend a few seconds every time I have to throw something out standing in front of my fridge to double check.
(fun fact: Don Cheadle made this Captain Planet spoof a few years back. You should watch it, but only if you don’t mind a laugh and a swear or two)
TLDR: Trash is complicated and frustrating for an American in Japan.
Even more so if you have a dog that does what dogs do outside.
We’ll discuss more in the next post!
Meanwhile, I’m curious - how do you make your morality based decisions?
Have you become the next Dali Lama?
Have you seen great examples of kids showing off their
own morality development (they’re SO good at it)?
Tell me in the comments!
today’s little language lesson:
gomiwa, doko desu ka?
where is the trash bin?
(answer: nowhere near you.)