u:japan lectures #13 A hug on trash day

‘We hug on Tuesdays. That’s easy to remember as it is recyclables rubbish day.’ This is how Mikuri in the popular TV drama ‘Nigeru wa haji da ga yaku ni tatsu” (‘The Full-time Wife Escapist’; TBS 2016) lays out one of the contractual conditions for her marriage of convenience. In so doing, she inadvertently indicates the extent to which waste disposal and recycling practices structure daily life in Japan. Following the realisation that Japan needed to increase recycling rates in order to deal with its growing amount of household waste, the ‘Containers and Packaging Recycling Law’ (Yōki hōsō risaikuru-hō) that was implemented in 1997 has reorganised waste disposal and recycling practices. Municipalities are now in charge of collecting and handling waste, and residents follow detailed rules that govern the sorting and disposal of their household waste. There are considerable regional differences, but the two basic categories are ‘rubbish’ (gomi), which is mostly incinerated before being taken to landfill, and ‘resources’ (shigen), which are collected for recycling. In this presentation I analyse notions of cleanliness and the categorisation of household waste and examine how individuals, households and neighbourhoods deal with their rubbish. I argue that cleanliness and litter-free streets are not simply a cultural characteristic of Japanese society but the result of everyday practices of waste sorting and disposal that act and actualise the social order. The presentation is based on the preliminary findings of my ongoing research project ‘Rubbish! Disposing waste, negotiating community’. LIVE @ Campus of the University of Vienna (registration required!)... or otherwise STREAMED online (no registration required)

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