This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It turns out the garbage system in South Korea is a bit different than what we’re used to back home in the United States. While we read a lot about the culture and everyday differences before moving here, we didn’t read about the differences in regards to garbage collection and recylcing.
Few Public Garbage Cans
One of the biggest differences that we first noticed while in South Korea was the fact that there are very few public garbage cans available. I think we realized this when we were strolling around Incheon on our first or second day and we couldn’t find anywhere to dispose of our empty water bottle! We quickly came to realize that public garbage cans and bags are few and far betwee in Korea.
Why?! Because you can’t just throw your garbage anywhere and you can’t mix it all together! Korea sells different bags for different kinds of garbage. You can pick up these bags at any supermarket and they come in various sizes so you’ll be able to get exactly what you need. In addition, there is no garbage tax. Instead, garbage centers and garbage collectors are paid based on the sale of garbage bags!
Rules for Separating Trash
While I’m all for recycling, Korea happens to take their recycling to a new level! You must separate paper, plastic, cans, glass, cardboard, food waste, and regular garbag all the time.
Yellow bags are used to throw away food waste. If we have any kind of food waste, it must go in this type of bag. Green bags are for general waste, such as napkins from eating, tissues, and other odds and ends. We usually keep our glass and plastic bottles organized in the sink and take them outside every day or every other day when we head out for school in the morning.
Outside of our apartment complex, we have separate bins for trash. There is a bin for glass bottles, cans, and plastic. We even have a separate section for cardboard boxes. The covered bins are where we place our food waste garbage bags. There’s a big open bin for the regular garbage(green bags).
We live in rural South Korea, but if you plan to spend time in Seoul, note that each district has different garbage bags and systems in place.
It’s been a learning experience when it comes to garbage and recycling here! You can now see why it’s more tempting to eat out at a restaurant rather than cook at home, because the gargabe is always taken care of for you.
Prepare to Separate Trash When You Go Out
While you won’t have to dig through your own garbage at a regular sit-down restaurant, you should be prepared to separate trash if you go to a café, coffee shop, or fast food restaurant. Many places serve drinks in re-useable cups to cut down on the amount of garbage.
You will see sectioned off garbage bins where you can place regular garbage and food waste. At these garbage stations, you will also see a canister which you can dump any excess liquid from your drink cup. The first time we experienced this set-up was at a McDonalds in Gwangju, during our first week in the country.
As you can see, the garbage system in South Korea is a bit different than what you might be used to back home! While it takes some adjusting to, it must be making a difference to our Earth. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we would put this type of recycling system in place in America!
As always, thanks for reading!