These days most of my observations come from contact with my students and the things I see the locals in my neighborhood doing. I guess it's unfortunate that blogging and digital cameras weren't around back when I was traveling all over Tokyo and local cities most weekends during much of my first decade here. Since I'm not a big shopper, a lot of my observation is done while grocery shopping or handling necessary errands in our neighborhood. Recently, there's something I've noticed at the local markets which I'm not so sure is a great idea.
Some time ago, I noticed that recycling bins for Styrofoam food trays were next to the tables for bagging your own groceries. This appeared to be a rather odd place for such a bin, particularly when all the other bins (including one for Styrofoam trays) were outside.
While I was bagging my groceries, I noticed that an older lady next to me was opening up her package of chicken and removing the tray from under it. She used the plastic from the outside of the tray to re-wrap the chicken then tossed the tray in the bin next to the bagging area.
This situation has me a bit torn. On the one hand, I applaud the instant nature of this type of recycling. On the other, I'm rather appalled by the unsanitary nature of it. It's not only a matter of seeing people expose their raw meat and seafood products to an area full of other people (who may be coughing, sneezing, or breathing out all kinds of unsavory things) and possibly allowing juices from those products to drip onto the bagging tables. It's also the fact that you cannot easily remove any raw meat or seafood from its packaging without getting residue from it on your hands. In fact, with chicken and the way it often leaks blood or fluid into its tray, this is pretty much impossible. It's sometimes the case that so much fluid leaks out of packaged chicken that it seeps through the plastic wrap when it's still fully wrapped.
So, you've got people handling their bags, bikes or other parts of the store after touching raw meat or seafood and spreading around some pretty potentially nasty bacteria. Salmonella is especially a risk from chicken juices. Since this system seems mainly set-up to avoid having to collect your trays, wash them, and then take them back later for recycling, it seems mainly to be catering to people's laziness when it comes to recycling rather than serving a greater purpose.