Around The World
The Republic of Korea, or South Korea as we know it, is a country that stretches as a part of a peninsula off the coast of China into the Sea of Japan. It is a stone’s throw from Japan itself, if you have very good arms.
Folk in the Republic of Korea(South Korea) take recycling very seriously indeed. The government have embraced the notion of recycling like a long-lost friend and have implemented many sweeping changes to get everyone on board.
Take Seoul, a capital city of approximately 12 million people living, working and consuming together; in 2002, they were recycling about 15% of their waste and were running out of landfill. They thought they should do something about this. Now, in 2006, their recycling figure has leapt to 60% and they still want to increase it more. They’re recycling fiends! These impressive figures have been achieved through adherence to those three Rs; reduce, reuse and recycle.
Residents are happy to separate their waste and place it into different coloured bags. The recycling varies from place to place, but a typical separation is: glass, tins and cans in one bag, PET bottles in another. Large plastic and polystyrene go together, while big bits of cardboard are on their own. Small cardboard and paper are collected as one, but newspaper is collected separately. There’s a bag for fabric, and even yellow ones for organic waste that can be composted.
All these multi coloured bags are collected by the recycling men who pile them high on to their little trucks and trundle off to various recycling centres that have popped up around city. The scant aount that doesn’t make it into the coloured bags goes into the equivalent of our black bin-bags, which are taxed. If the people don’t separate enough of their rubbish for recycling, they’re put on a large catapult and flung into the Sea of Japan (NB: that last bit is a lie). There’s also a truck that drives around the city collecting used electrical equipment that announces its presence on a speaker like our old rag and bone men.
The shops are getting in on the action too. You’ll be charged for a carrier bag, about 50 Won, to encourage you to bring your own. In stores and restaurants, there are separate bins for every kind of rubbish. If you drink a coke, you will be expected to dispose of the cup, lid, straw and any leftover liquid separately. If fast-food and other waste-intensive restaurants recycle less than 90 percent of their used paper containers, they can be fined up to 3 million Won (about £1600).
Companies that produce waste are expected to recycle too. Manufacturers and importers of drinks in glass, metal or PET containers and those who use tyres and lubricant oils have to pay a deposit that covers the collection and recycling of their waste materials. They get their money back when they deposit the materials at a recycling facility or don’t pay at all if they run their own recycling scheme
The people and Government of South Korea have embraced recycling and sustainability with an enthusiasm that could make a lot of other countries red in the face. We take our hats off to them.