Most things about Japanese food I have down. I walk into a supermarket, choose what looks good, go to the checkout and say "hai (yes)" to whatever they ask me. Occasionally, there is a slightly surprising occurrence whereby food gets heated and sometimes I acquire a pair of disposable chopsticks, but regardless I escape with my dinner and head home. The eating of said dinner I am ALL about. I have liked almost everything I have tried in Japan from octopus to mochi and am thinking of proposing marriage to my rice cooker. Finally, I'm done, I wash up and .... throw out the trash.

At this last, innocent step, my entire grasp of Japanese culture breaks down and I am left a horrified foreigner. Since space is a high commodity in Japan, garbage is divided into (at least) three sections: "burnable", "non-burnable" and "recycling". Items for each category go in different coloured bin bags and are collected on different days. The problem comes from knowing which items go in which bag:

A pair of wooden disposable chop sticks? Ok, surely burnable.
A dead battery? Definitely non-burnable. Fear my Physics degree.
How about a waxed juice container? ... Probably burnable.
The plastic wrap I had my sandwich in? ... it doesn't look burnable...

This is a large problem since the Japanese like their wrapping. I was presented with a vacuum packed potato shortly after arriving here and it took me ten minutes to release an apple I had bought from a store as a snack. In fact, the situation is even worse that I originally thought. Upon discussing the topic with friends, I received the helpful reply:

"Oh, well, it depends on the incinerator your district has."

Apparently, some incinerators can burn plastic and some cannot. You just gotta know. This has left me with the task of smuggling my garbage out late at night to surreptitiously stuff it in the apartment complexes bins and hope that no one sees me. The Japanese are serious about rubbish. Allegedly, if you leave your trash unsorted outside your house, your neighbours will return it to your door step for you to do properly.

I am wondering if plastic cannot be eaten.