Isn't everything burnable?
Sorting rubbish in Japan is almost a full time job. In Australia we have two options. You can put it in a black bin, or the yellow bin. The black bin is for anything and everything that you could ever have or use. The yellow bin is for recycling, which is optional but highly recommended.
In Japan there is a lot more than two. Currently in my apartment I have 5 bags, and several stacks of assorted trash. It takes up an entire corner of my kitchen. Of course, the instructions for trash sorting are entirely in Japanese, so that is extremely helpful for first timers to Japan. But this is what I have eventually come up with.
The categories for my city are as follows.
1. Burnable (general waste)
2. Non-Burnable (this includes broken glass, razors, small appliances)
3. Plastics (this is almost all plastics; they must be washed, dried and have no food on them whatsoever)
4. PET bottles (like coke bottles and other plastic bottles; the caps and labels must be removed and put into plastics)
5. Aluminium (really only cans and tins)
6. Glass (unbroken glass only)
7. Old newspapers (tied together with string)
8. Cartons (milk, juice cartons; must be washed and unfolded)
9. Large Furniture
10. Boxes (flattened and tied with string)
If you are completely lost at this point, then that would put you in the same boat as 100% of the foreigners living in Japan and 90% of the Japanese people. The solution? Well, you have three options. Option One: Let it pile up in your house. Actually not a bad option, if you have a spare cupboard or two, why not. Especially the more difficult items like furniture. When you move out, the next English teacher can deal with it. Problem solved! Option Two: Hide it! Wrap it in newspapers or plastic bags and throw it in the burnable. I was walking down to the rubbish collection area of my apartment blocks the other day and I saw a Japanese man that had lined the entire inside of his garbage bag with newspapers. Hiding anything much? Option Three: Don't sort your trash and just take it down to the collection area in the middle of the night. Probably the most risky of all the options given that Japanese people do not sleep, and also that garbage men do not collect the trash if they notice it's not sorted.
Luckily, once you do begin to learn a little Japanese, most items have instructions written on them detailing how to dispose of them correctly. If not, you can always strike up a conversation with an elderly lady. Elderly ladies are the self designated experts who can be found hovering around the collection areas on pick up day, inspecting everyone's sorting to make sure it is correct.