While many countries have recycling systems, none are quite as thorough as Korea’s. Since Korea is a small country with a large population, sorting recyclables is highly important. The system is somewhat complicated, and it can be fairly overwhelming for newcomers. Making a mistake can get you yelled at or even fined.
The garbage bags are usually located in the car park or 1st floor of most buildings, next to the security guard’s office, and they shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Recycling in Korea is itself split into further subdivisions. There are generally 5 separate bags:
Plastic (플라스틱류): PET bottles and other hard plastics
Vinyl (비닐류): Soft plastic, plastic bags
Paper (종이류): Paper, cardboard, notebooks
Aluminium (캔류): Cans, other metals
Glass (유리병류): Glass bottles, jars
Usually, the security guard for the building also has to manage the garbage, so if you put things in the wrong bag, you are making extra work for them. Also, make sure that the recyclables are not contaminated by food or oil before you throw them out.
All non-recyclables must be disposed of in a general garbage bag. The colour of the bag can very from place to place, but they are often pink or blue. You can buy these bags at supermarkets or convenience stores if you ask for 쓰레기봉투. You can buy them in packs of 10, and the size varies from 5 litres to 100 litres.
Food Waste (음식뭉쓰레기)
All compost and food waste must be disposed of in a food waste bag. These are usually smaller yellow bags, ranging from 1 litre to 10 litres. Just like general garbage bags, you can buy them at supermarkets or convenience stores, just ask for 음식물쓰레기봉투. You can throw them out in a dedicated bin for food waste.
For anything larger (furniture, appliances, etc.) you should talk to the security guard about how to throw them out. For furniture, you may have to pay a small fee.
Written by: Ewan Smith