In the U.S. recycling varies by county and state. Everyone has a different procedure, different municipalities accept different types of recyclables, and overall it is one big, confusing mess.
However, in Japan the whole country follows one system: recycle everything you can or pay the price. No one questions the sense behind it, and as far as I can tell, everyone does it.
So how does it work? There are four basic influences at work:
Trash: In Japan, you don’t just throw out trash, you pay to have it taken away. Compared to most pay to throw trash plans in the U.S., you pay a lot. A dollar or so for a small bag. However, recycling is free, so why wouldn’t you do it?
Home recycling: To avoid throwing out trash, home recycling set-ups are often quite elaborate. Where I am living right now we have 4 bins and a pile for paper recycling. The bins are as follows: small plastic bottles, large plastic bottles, aluminum, and trash. Glass can also be recycled separately as well as other metals, but those aren’t as common.
Point of sale disposal: When you buy a tea or some other drink from a machine you don’t have an option to throw it in the trash, there is only recycling. At convenience stores, you have 5 or 6 different bins, with only one set aside for burnable trash. If you can’t burn it, it can be recycled, and will be.
Product packaging: Products are designed for recycling (or burning) carefully. They have to follow certain rules and regulations to make sure that they products can be disposed of easily and efficiently. For the plastic labels on soda bottles that cannot be recycled, they easily tear off to be thrown in the trash. Other products come with instructions on how to dispose of them effectively.