Traveling around Asia you become accustom to different levels of garbage. In the emerging countries where people are trying to make a living you see garbage everywhere for logical reasons; when you are trying to feed your family, ensuring that every plastic bag is picked up doesn’t really make the priority list.

In Tokyo, which went through a terrible pollution stage post World War II, the emergence of wealth has led to incredible cleanliness. Garbage in Japan is about as common as immigrants – not often seen; truly the cleanest city in the world.

Which left me wondering, what would it be like outside of the business areas that I was accustomed to in China? We have all read about the terrible pollution, so would that also mean that the same disregard for the environment is prevalent along back streets?

The answer was a a surprise – it is quite clean. As we traveled around Beijing and Xian, you did not see piles of roadside or back alley garbage. Instead, I saw a lot of people collecting garbage.

My favorite garbage collectors were those at Tiananmen Square and like many people in China, they were on electric scooters.

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In Canada it is progressive when a city incorporates composting. There is still a large debate on the economics of recycling beyond the most basic in a resource rich country.

In Japan, they take garbage sorting and distribution very seriously, as you would expect as the country is land and resource constrained. But for a newcomer, the garbage system can be quite daunting. We had to cut this out and put “cheat sheets” on each of the 4 different bins that we have in the apartment.


And to be clear, make a mistake and you could face a fine. This is serious stuff and required many re-reads before we got it right (smile). At least it is in English.

Candidly, I admire them and am glad to do my part. Canada should do a lot more of this.