Thursday, September 13, 2012

Where Everything Goes

Click on the photo to enlarge it.
I always hesitate before making use of these typical trash receptacles. Who can figure out what goes where? They are just a little too puzzling for me and the signage doesn't provide much of a reassuring guide either. Like the monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey, they give me pause me to ask: What does it all mean? 

There's a slot for "combustible" garbage which I used to find kind of alarming. I always think of the word combustible as being naturally paired with a skull and crossbones.  I could never fathom why so many people would be carrying around so much excess combustible material that there would be a need for a specially designated place to dump it every other block. 

Sometimes the trash cans are labeled "burnable" garbage. I find those a lot less frightening to use than ones labeled "combustible." After all something combustible could potentially explode at any moment. Still, "burnable" garbage presents kind of a head-scratcher for me. Lots of things will burn, especially if you pour something combustible over it, like gasoline. The Japanese, moeru gomi, doesn't provide much of a helpful clue either. It basically means the same as the English, burnable garbage or garbage that can be burned.

It took me a while before I finally figured out that "burnable" or "combustible" garbage really means trash that will be picked up and torched to a crisp in a huge commercial class incinerator that will probably add countless tons of green house gasses to the environment and perhaps just a smattering of toxic pollutants that may find their way to your lungs. That's what the sign should say and the same should go for the stuff that is to be dumped in a landfill adjacent to the bay. Then everybody would know exactly where everything goes.

Post Script

They say that the average American throws out twice as much trash as the average Japanese citizen. If true, that makes me above average because I produce three to four times as much garbage as anyone in Temple Valley. While Yokohama's incinerators do convert "burnable" or "combustible" trash into heat and energy, I look forward to the day when the city begins to make even greater use of its refuse to power a bright new future. I could be its number one resource! 

Further reading: Japan Stanches Stench of Mass Trash Incinerator (Wash. Post)

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