Waste Management in South Korea


During my first few weeks in Korea, I was stumped over a certain problem: my garbage. Back in California, we segregated our trash mostly into three categories: food waste, recyclables and regular trash. But in Korea, I was impressed at how seriously recycling is taken. After this field note, think about how waste management is handled in your own area and compare it with the South Korean system. Is there anything we can learn from each other? Trash is, after all, a global problem! Sharing different ways to better manage our trash can significantly improve the environment, and conseqeuntly, the living standards of many other countries in the world.  

What community need did I learn about?:

In South Korea, you cannot just throw your trash in any regular plastic bag. There are specific plastic bags that you have to buy that are mandated by the government. In addition, each district has its own official trash bag. This means that I cannot use another district’s bag in my area because trash collectors will refuse to pick it up. These bags can usually be bought in local grocery markets and convenience stores.

We have to purchase two bags, a white bag (but colors can differ) for general waste and a yellow bag for food waste. These vary in sizes ranging from 1L (one liter, the smallest for food waste bags) to 100L (the biggest for general waste bags).