There are a few things to know when traveling to Korea. When it comes to recycling in Korea there are a lot of strict regulations and policies compared to other countries. In Korea garbage is separated into common garbage (일반쓰레기), food waste (음식물쓰레기), recyclables (재활용품), and large waste objects (대형페기물). However, each garbage category has its own separate regulation which causes a lot of confusion to foreigners who come from countries where recycling is not mandatory. It is important to adjust and follow Korean regulations since improper disposal can lead to warnings or (at the worst) fines.
In order to avoid angry garbage men, Seoul Space has prepared a quick overview for you on how to sort your trash the Korean way. For a more detailed article make sure to check out our feature on tips for traveling to Seoul.
Recycling in Korea
Food Waste in Korea
Food waste needs to be separated from general waste. Therefore it is placed in a special disposal bag that comes in 3 sizes (3, 5, 10-liter bags). How do you know which kind of food waste to put in these bags? Koreans believe that if an animal (pig) can eat it, it can go in the bag. Therefore anything that is edible can go in the Food Waste bags. This includes fruit/vegetable skins, uncooked or raw meat, and even raw eggs. However, eggshells, crab/shrimp/clamshells, bones, and unedible fruit/vegetable skins need to go in the general waste bag.
General Waste in Korea
General waste is considered anything that can’t be recycled or put in the food waste bag. This includes issues, sanitary materials, pillows, old shoes, pillows, blankets, clothes, and common small objects. General waste bags can be found in your local convenient store or market. We would recommend getting the 20L bag as it will fit in most trash bins.
Recycling in Korea
In Korea, recycling is a big deal. Most apartments will have a recycling area with various different containers for your recyclables. If you live in a Villa, you won’t need a special bag for your recyclable items. You can use a separate clear bag and leave it with your general waste bag.
So what needs to be recycled in Korea?
- Juice/Milk cartons
- Glass Bottles
- Aluminum Cans
- Plastic containers/bottles (PET)
- Paper (magazines, newspapers, printing paper)
When throwing out oversized items such as furniture or appliances you will need to buy a sticker to put on them so they can be picked up for disposal. If you live in an apartment, the maintenance man or security guard will have these stickers. The price will depend on the size of the furniture or appliance. For example, a large bed will cost around 40,000 won.