Where Shall I Throw it into?

South Korea’s waste drastically increased after its rapid economic growths in the 90’s. To handle this problem, the government implemented a quantity-based municipal solid waste charging system. Since this system is quite new, some people still do not have the sense for waste separation or even randomly trash in the streets. Therefore the government can fine house owners for wrong waste separation and also placed signs to not dump your trash on the street. At my place, there is even a CCTV filming the trash disposal area.

It has to be generally distinguish between recycling, food waste and general waste. Garbage disposal bags can be purchased at supermarkets or convenient stores. Be careful while buying those bags. Each district has its own bags so you better buy them at a shop close to your home. The sizes differ from 5, 10, 20 and 50 liter. Non-observance of the governmental rules will be penalized by paying penalty fees applied by each local district.

It seems like every city in Korea has slightly different systems. While I was living in the countryside each house had four to five different nets, a bin for food and the general plastic bag. In my apartment in Seoul, we have plastic bags for general trash, a plastic bag for food waste and a bin where I can trash recyclable waste. An Ajeossi is separating the bin later.

Knowing the basis of waste separation, let’s get into more details.


You may believe that, like the name it says, in the recycling waste belongs everything that is recyclable. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. This list may help you to figure out, what kind of trash you can put together.


Recyclable Items

Non-recyclable Items


Newspapers, books, notes, wrapping paper, corrugated cardboard, paper bags, paper boxes, items indicated

Plastic coated paper bags, Plastic coated paper cups


Beer bottles, liquor bottles, soda beverage bottles, items indicated

Sheet glass, mirrors, heatproof tableware, milk-white bottles, cosmetic bottles, ceramic wares


Beverage cans, spray cans, butane gas containers, aluminum, stainless utensils, steel tools, iron wire, items indicated as

Paint containers, oil containers, or containers of noxious materials


Safety packages for household electrical appliances, etc., delivery containers for fresh fish or fruit, clean instant noodle containers

Disposable dishes


Items indicated as ‘PET’, ‘HIPE’, ‘LDPE’, ‘PP’, ‘PS’, ‘PVC’, or ‘OTHER’

Writing implements, buttons, sockets, toys, baby-walkers, disposable cameras, electric heaters

Milk Cartons

Milk cartons

Fluorescent Lamps

Unbroken fluorescent lamps or bulbs

Broken fluorescent lamps or bulbs

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags (white, black, etc.)

Instant noodle packages, contaminated plastic bags


Dispose of at the designated area indicated by each neighborhood office

This kind of trash can be placed in ordinary plastic bags which you place in the designated area of your home. Or, your landlord offers recycling nets in front of your property to deposit your recyclable garbage.

Food waste

Food waste is defined as everything that can be fed to animals, except hard matters like hard shells or bones.


Items not included in food waste


Hard shells such as shells of walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts, acorns, coconuts, pineapples, coconut palms.

Seeds of drupes such as peaches, apricots, persimmons


Bones and feathers


Shells of clam, turban shell, abalone, ark shell, sea squirt, oyster, crawfish, lobster, etc.

Internal organs of globe fish


Tea bags, grounds of herbal medicine

Food waste must be placed in special plastic garbage bags. Pay attention to not put any food waste in any other garbage.

General waste

Everything that does not belong to recyclable, food waste and large waste (e.g. furniture) is placed in general waste. For this kind of garbage use designated plastic garbage bags.

Large waste

Garbage that does not fit into standard waste bags can be collected by your local Gu-office. You just need to buy a sticker at your Gu-office, apply it on your large waste (television, furniture, bicycle, etc.) and put it in front of your property to get disposed.

General waste bag of Gangnam-gu

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