Litter collection: New style

Help local cleanup operations and make new friends

Litter collection: New style

On Japan’s Coming-of-Age Day last Jan 11, you may have noticed groups of young adults earnestly collecting litter by the side of the road. While 1425 twenty year olds celebrated their ascension into adulthood at C.C.Lemon Hall in Shibuya, in Yoyogi Park, less than a stone’s throw away, an entirely different group of people competed with each other in a game of ‘Sports Gomi Hiroi’. A game in which opposing teams compete within predefined areas and time limits to collect as much litter as possible, Sports Gomi Hiroi awards different points for litter collected from five specific categories: burnable, non-burnable, cans and bottles, plastic bottles, and miscellaneous. The trick is to not only focus on quantity or collecting the most litter, but to also pay special attention to quality or litter collection from the highest scoring categories. Even seemingly litter-free places such as behind a vending machine or in the bushes usually offer a few empty cans, cigarette butts, the ripped up remains of an old magazine or the odd discarded umbrella.

Sports Gomi Hiroi is organized by the Japan Sports Litter Collecting Federation. Established in 2008 by students from Musashino and Waseda Universities among others, the organisation aims to increase environmental awareness through litter collection events. Participants not only volunteer to help clean up their local environment but also compete and have fun working together.

Interestingly, Sports Gomi Hiroi is not a stand-alone event. Other opportunities exist to get involved in litter collection events in and around Shibuya. Ebisuka, for example, is an ongoing monthly clean-up project, where participants from organizations such as NPO GoodDay and Reflect Project collect litter in and around Ebisu. Clean Busters is another example. Various teams take part in this event, including Harajuku Omotesando Keyaki-kai and Laforet Harajuku; teens can also represent by joining the Laforet Clean Busters. Donning stylish uniforms designed by the popular brand BA-TSU, participants are changing the image of litter collection from that of something previously thought of as dirty and smelly, into something altogether more fun and fashionable.

The pioneer of all this litter-picking excitement is arguably an organization named Greenbird. Founded in 2003, Greenbird champions the concept that ‘A clean town cleanses people’s hearts and minds.’ Although the organisation originated in Shibuya, Greenbird now runs events in 30 different areas including Kabukicho, Kichijoji, Kamakura, Omiya, Nagoya and Sapporo. Sri Lanka and Paris also boast their own Greenbird chapters with Paris activities keenly reported in local headlines such as ‘Japanese expats take their brooms to Paris streets, cleaning up cigarette butts, dog excrement and chewing gum’ and ‘Parisians cry “Bravo” in astonishment as litter from their streets, collected by Greenbird volunteers, fills the back of a garbage truck.’

Back in Tokyo, Greenbird continues to run regular litter collecting events supplying participants with gloves, tongs and garbage bags. According to Greenbird’s team leaders, younger participants are even taking part in litter collecting activities as dates—these events aren’t just about collecting litter, they also provide social networking opportunities. Whether your objective is purely to help improve the area in which you live, to take part in a sporting activity, or to make new friends and socialise, it would appear that collecting litter has it all. By all means, checkout the organisations listed below, choose an event and see for yourself.

Japan Sports Litter Collecting Federation


NPO GoodDay


Reflect Project

When: 3rd Sun of every month, 10am onwards
Meeting Place: By the bottom of the stairs on the Quiz Ebisu side of Ebisu station’s east exit.


Head Office: 206 Co-op Olympia, 6-35-3 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5469-5318

Omotesando Team
When: Every Mon and Thur, 9.30am–12noon
Meeting place: Harajuku Omotesando Keyaki-kai, Federation of Shopping Center Promotion office
Address: 6-2-6 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo

Shimokitazawa Team
When: Sun 1–3pm
Meeting place: South exit of Odakyu station, Shimokitazawa
Address: 2-24-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo

Gaienmae Team
When: 2nd and 4th Fri of every month, 10.30am onwards Meeting place: In front of Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium
Address: 2-8-35 Aoyama, Minato, Tokyo

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By Akiko Toya
Translated by Brin Wilson
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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