The Japanese art of making trash cans from old papers

How to make an eco-friendly container that is used in many Japanese homes.

A visit to a grandparents’ house in Japan can introduce you to a lot of eye-opening things, like the best Japanese sweets and snacks … and how to make epic amounts of umeboshi.

For our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma, a visit to his grandfather’s house always reminds him of the wonders of the trash can of the folder. This small container is commonly seen in many households where they are used to conveniently storing leftovers, and Masanuki’s grandfather always puts one out that he can use when eating or peeling a mandarin at the table.

It’s a super convenient, environmentally friendly way to do things, as the waste bins are made with old newspapers or leaflets, which are commonly available in supermarkets or delivered by post, so it helps recycle old waste materials while reducing the consumption of plastic bags.

Leaflets and newspapers are given new life as waste containers.

Masanuki has since practiced making his own bins, folding them in advance and making a large stack just like his grandfather does, so they can be easily pulled out and used as a waste bin on the countertop when needed.

It’s a smart bit of Japanese knowledge that Masanuki would love to share with the rest of the world, so he’s made a quick guide so you can make your own trash cans too!

Swipe left below to see the video showing how it was made:

Whoops, it was fast, Masanuki! If you did not catch all that, do not despair – he has the detailed instructions for you below.


1. Fold the rectangular paper in half.

2. Fold the folded paper in half again.

3. Open one of the flaps from the last fold and make that part into a triangle, as shown below (follow the direction of the arrows!)

4. Repeat the triangle fold on the other side.

5. Turn one half of the triangle over to the other side.

6. Repeat this on the back.

7. Fold the outer edges in half.

8. Repeat on the back.

9. Fold the top protruding part towards you.

10. Also repeat on the back.

11. Now you need to cut, or tear, both the protruding parts down the middle (the red line above indicates the part to be cut).

▼ Tear it down the middle and only to the top of the folded part, as shown below.

12. Insert the corners of the cut part into the small pockets on the side, as shown by the red arrow below.

▼ Then just open your creation and lighten it out to a square shape.

If you have come this far – congratulations! You have now turned a piece of rubbish into a rubbish bin and mastered an origami technique that people in Japan have been using for generations.

Once you’ve set up a stack of containers beforehand and stored a store away at home, congratulations again – you’ve reached the highest Japanese grandparent level.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, because smart hacks like this are a good idea for all generations.

It may seem a little difficult to make at first, but once you have mastered all the folds, these handy containers are super simple and fun to make.

So next time you get one of those annoying flyers in the mail, why not use it to make a trash can before throwing it away? It will be a great conversation piece when guests come by and it will look just like home with your collection of paper KitKat cranes.

Pictures © SoraNews24
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