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Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.
Police officers seal off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
Police officers seal off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

For two decades, it was the lament of inexperienced visitors to Japan: Where are all the trash cans? It’s a cruel trick, in a way: In a country with innumerable vending machines, there’s often nowhere to put one’s wrappers or empty bottles.

Public waste bins and garbage cans were largely removed from Japanese cities following the 1995 sarin gas attacks, forcing residents to adopt some of the world’s more disciplined waste disposal techniques.