Waste Management in South Korea

The cost of trash collection and disposal is included in the residents’ purchase of the bags.

Recyclables do not have a specific bag, but most places require residents to segregate them. This is where I had the most trouble because I never placed so much thought into what I throw away! Common categories include the following: paper (newspapers, books, notes, paper bags and boxes), cartons (milk and juice cartons), glass (bottles), metal (cans, stainless utensils), plastics (plastic bottles and bags, those labelled with “PET,” “PP,” “PS”), Styrofoam (safety packages from appliances & electronics, food containers), and vinyl (snack wrappers). Some places have even more thOrough segregation. For instance, at my boyfriend’s house, they even separate colored vinyl from non-colored vinyl, and have a designated area for used clothes and shoes. On the other hand, some areas such as the subways and general areas only have bins for general waste and recyclable waste.

Why does the community have this need?:

Trash is a significant problem in all countries, and South Korea is no exception. As we learned in the environment field note, South Korea has a very high population density. With space already scarce and landfills posing a threat to the environment, the decision of where to place landfills pushed the government to think creatively. The breakthrough came in 1995, when the South Korean government decided to implement a volume-based waste fee, wherein households would pay according to the amount of trash they threw away  (pay-as-you-throw, or “PAYT”). This was the beginning of the bag usage. Before this, a single flat rate was charged regardless of the amount.