Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recycling Nation

I had a nice conversation with my parents the other day about

RECYCLING.

I know it's an odd thing to think about, but I've noticed some differences here in Korea from my community in Wisconsin that are worth highlighting.

We do a lot more recycling here.  Even at the restaurants.  Typically real plates, cups and silverware are used for everything except take out.  Any eat in restaurant will use the real thing, even the food courts!  When you finish with your meal you'll take your dishes and sort them for cleaning.  At our school we use real plates, silverware, and cups.  Anyone from my previous school will know I was a fanatic about using real silverware; I brought real forks to the teacher's lounge so my colleagues wouldn't use plasticware every day. 

So far this may not seem so unusual, but what about this?  Let's say you order delivery from a Chinese restaurant here.  I've been told they will bring your meal on real plates!  So, when you're done eating you are supposed to put the dishes outside your door; the delivery person will come back and pick them up later!

Still not impressed?  Well, the fast food places (Western)  DO use paper products HOWEVER when you are finished eating and are about to throw your waste away you will notice that everything is recycled.  First, empty your cups one place, then put the cup on one place for recycling, the lid goes in another pile, other paper waste may have another recepticle and food garbage in another.

Still not impressed?  I've noticed that products made here are designed for easy recycling.  Products that in the States might have metal attached to cardboard (difficult to recycle) aren't made that way here.  Different materials are easily detached fo recycling purposes.  Styrofoam products and "other" are recycled.

At the grocery store or shops you must pay for every bag you use; therefore, most everyone brings their own canvas bags shopping.  When I need a paper or plastic bag I need to ask for it.  This is not true for the street vendors, however.  They are rather liberal with the plastic bags.

Even napkins are at a premium.  I haven't found napkins in the store yet; so we don't have any.  Napkins at the cafeteria and restaurants are small 1-ply squares that barely do the trick, but certainly trees are being saved.

I know I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again almost everything we generate in our apartment has a home other than the landfill: paper, plastic, glass, cans, newspapers, styrofoam, batteries, clothes and food for compost have their place.  Each week we actually generate only about a 3 gallon bag's worth of garbage for 4 people!  According to International Environmental Law Committee-Newsletter Archive, Vol. 5, No. 1 - Feb. 2003 (internet), "in 1994, the Ministry of Environment introduced a so-called 'volume-based waste collection fee system.' After Jan. 1, 1995, all households and commercial building owners were required to purchase specially designed plastic bags for waste collection. Waste collection trucks only collect waste put in these bags. Under this system, people who generate more waste pay more."  So we pay for our waste removal, but removal of recyclables is free. Big items like furniture sometimes find their way to the garbage area; residents have to pay to have them removed (not sure where they go) BUT lots of times those items that are in good enough shape end up picked up by someone else (dumpster diving!  No Problem!)

 It seems all of this is a part of a recycling initiative and laws put into place by Korea about 1992.  Apparently, the system isn't perfect, but it sure seems better than what I'm used to!

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