Home > Countries > Snapshots > Garbage disposal in Seoul, South Korea

The way a country goes about its garbage disposal says a lot about its culture. Today we explore how it is done in Seoul, South Korea.


South Korea has a highly organised waste management system known as jongnyangje. Waste disposal and recycling policy is set by the Ministry Of Environment, and garbage collection is organised at a municipal level. Household food waste, recyclables, non-recyclables and large objects are disposed of separately. Following this system is mandatory: here are penalty charges for non-compliance, and also rewards for reporting non-compliance.

There is no direct fee for garbage collection: funding comes from the sale of garbage bags that are colour-coded by waste category and usable in only one district. Colour-coding varies between districts, and collectors will not accept non-standard bags.

Disposal is typically centralised in large buildings. Most will have a waste disposal area, communal bins and a caretaker whose responsibility it is to supervise waste disposal. If no waste disposal area or caretaker is present, garbage bags can only be left outside the house between certain hours on the designated day. These are usually between late evening and early morning.

The four separate categories of waste in South Korea are:

  • Landfill waste
  • Organic waste
  • Recyclables
  • Large waste objects

Organic waste should be dried out before disposal. In general, organic waste constitutes anything that could be fed to livestock. Objects such as fruit stones, bones, nutshells and teabags should be placed in the landfill container.

Paper, glass, steel, fabrics and plastics are recycled in South Korea, though recycling arrangements vary from place to place. Recycling must always be separated into types and compressed or flattened before disposal. In large buildings, recyclables must be separated into specific communal bins.

Large waste objects, such as bicycles and televisions, will be collected if left in the general collection area with the correct large object disposal sticker attached to them. Large object disposal stickers of different types can be bought at district offices.


South Korea
November 2017


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