Zero Waste Tokyo


Busy, hectic, eclectic and clean. Just four words I'd use to describe Tokyo.

I was very lucky to be able to visit Tokyo with work, sadly it was a fleeting visit of only five days but this was almost enough to see a snapshot into how the Japanese culture functions. 

I went there for the Tokyo Marathon and was seriously impressed at the organised recycling scheme they have out their, in fact they often have people manning them to make sure people recycle properly. I feel like Charlotte and I would score high on that job interview ;)

I noticed how immaculately clean everything was as soon as I stepped off the plane. Japanese people do not litter, in fact there are barely any bins. Most people will just take their rubbish home with them or not produce waste in the first place (imagine that ethos in England!).


The one thing that really struck me was the lack of street food, normally I live in London where street food is in abundance, however in Tokyo it’s just not the done thing. Which is great for waste because you have no polystyrene or plastic cups. 


After the marathon we decided to go and get a McDonald's. This is something I haven't done in years as I hate the waste, but the rest of the group wanted to so I went along. I had a tasty teriyaki burger, but what impressed me more was the recycling in McDonalds; they made you split everything into separate paper and plastic bins. Why don't we do that!? 


I also managed to find a few places who I think could be persuaded to be zero waste by either putting the food in Tupperware or bringing your own bag which is encouraging. 




So, since my trip, and reflecting on my epic fails, I've come up with some tips for you...

Zero waste essentials:

  • Chopsticks. I used mine constantly as a lot of restaurants use wooden ones that are then thrown away afterwards. 

  • Water bottle. The waster is drinkable in Tokyo so a bottle is essential – especially when sight seeing. 

  • A handkerchief. You will constantly be offered a napkin but if you show your handkerchief they will understand as most of them carry cloths around with them to wipe their hands. 

  • Coffee cup. As per usual.

  • A lunch box. If you have the space, but it's not essential. I found you don’t really eat any street food as it's not in their culture. Can also be used for snack supplies.

Everyone loves ZW ice cream

Everyone loves ZW ice cream

The Japanese culture is very unique in its morals and values, which you should research more into, for when you plan your trip.

So you may bring your own zero waste packed lunch BUT:

Do not eat in public, especially if it’s smelly food! Japanese people don't like anything that affects other people directly, it's seen as very rude. 

Apart from some rookie errors I was pretty impressed with Tokyo as a whole, they are conscious about recycling and it's not too hard to be zero waste in the city. I didn't manage to find any bulk buying stores but if anyones knows of any please let me know and I'll add it to the blog!