One thing that most locals take very seriously is the recycling of trash. Paper products, such as magazines, cardboard, and magazines are separated and collected once every two weeks. Recyclable plastic is picked-upon another day, by another company, once every two weeks. Cans and bottles, which must be separated from each other and well-rinsed, are gathered by yet another company again once every two weeks. Metal products are separated from everything else and collected by still another company on still another day once every two weeks. And finally, there is the “regular” flammable trash, which must be placed in a specific trash bag supplied by the city government and purchased at local supermarkets, picked-up twice a week. There are no exceptions to these rules, place the wrong item on the wrong week and it will sit there until the next collection day. The trash collectors take this system very seriously. Once we had a B-B-Q party and three bottles accidentally ended-up in the middle of loads of paper plates, cups, and napkins in the regular trash. We had no idea the bottles were there. One afternoon following trash collection, someone came knocking on my door. I opened the door only to find two men standing on the front porch with a torn-open bag of trash. One man grabbed a piece of trash from the bag that had my name and address on it and stated, “This is your trash isn’t it!” I confirmed that it was. At which point the other man grabbed the three bottles from the bag, while frowning and shaking his head. The two of them then proceeded with a twenty minute lecture, along with a chart, on the proper manner of trash disposal on Okinawa. I think this may have been this best example of the over-exaggeration of many situations that is so common on Okinawa. But I also must admit that it worked to a point in that we have never made the mistake of mixing our trash products again. I really don’t want to have to spend twenty more minutes getting lectured by the Okinawan trash police!
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