Hidden Costs

As I blogged a few weeks ago, my faithful refrigerator suddenly died, and I have since been experimenting on living without one. You see, a dead refrigerator, TV, A/C, or washing machine has become a major pain in the ass to get rid of in Japan. Since last March or so, new legislation prohibits us putting out such major appliances on Big Trash day. There isn’t even a junkyard or recycle center we can dump such items off at (in my city, at least). The main thing preventing me from getting a new refrigerator was, in fact, figuring out what to do with the old one.
As it turns out, this particular problem is solved like almost any other serious one encountered in Japan:
A. The proper way, with lots of paperwork and money, or
B. The sneaky way, AKA The Gaijin Way, which usually entails bending or flagrantly shitting all over the law
So those that know me well may be surprised to learn that I filled out all the forms for the privilege of paying more than 7,000 yen ($70) in pick-up and recycling fees for my dead refrigerator, and it’s not even a full-sized model! The fees don’t take size or weight into account, only the manufacturer (the sign at the electronics store where I went to fill out the forms said that models made by certain manufacturers cost 1,000+ yen more to recycle). Of course, my only other option to actually ponying up the cash to “recycle” my broken chilly fucker was to illegally dump it, which never would have bothered me in, say, the Osaka slums or in back of my old university, where it would have rusted into oblivion without ever bothering anybody. Back home in SoCal, a single phone call would have summoned a crew of orange-vested immigrants on a beat up truck with county tags to take away any old appliance for free. Hell, in Bangkok I could put it out on the curb and it would be gone (for real recycling) in less than an hour, I’m sure. But I live on a beautiful island right now, and somehow, it made me think twice before loading it up to deep six somewhere.
So basically, the cost entailed with my act of environmental responsibility was around $70. I’m still trying to figure out if it was worth it… In a way, I feel fucking played by the government again, I tell you. I want to know exactly how this fridge is going to be “recycled.” Maybe it was a stupid decision – by the number of appliances I see dumped up in the hills around here, I can tell you that many of my neighbors sure think so… In a truly just world, my children would grow up around dolphins and wildflowers, and my neighbors would live in a polluted world of nighmarish leaked-biotoxin nuclear winterlike suffocation, but be $70 richer.

2 Replies to “Hidden Costs”

  1. I think that the “sneaky Japanese way” is a better way of terming the practice of dumping illegally in Japan, as it seems many Japanese people (and corporations on a much larger scale) regularly get rid of their trash in the mountains and other natural areas.
    It has baffled me why people think it’s ok to throw their trash out of the window in the middle of a road cutting through a forest, or to see the mounds of cigarette butts at the scenic stops where people view Mt Aso from the Milk Road, or to constantly find corroded batteries washing up on the shores of oceans, lakes, and reservoirs over here. And no one says anything if they see someone littering! Back in the states, you will get yelled at and likely get in trouble with the law if you try and pull the same kind of stuff.
    As for “recycling” your fridge- I wonder if they are really going to do anything special with it, like siphon off and contain the CFCs (or whatever coolant), or if they’re just going to torch it like everything else. I’m betting that it’s gonna be the latter option that you paid 7,000 yen for.

  2. Yeah, you did the right thing Jus. It won’t make up for the wrongs committed by careless idiots other there or here or anywhere. But thanks for trying to do your part in doing the better thing.

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