Adjusting to Korean Life - Waste Disposal

Adjusting to Korean Life - Waste Disposal

Seoul, as well as the rest of Korea, has strict regulations regarding waste disposal and recycling. If you do not dispose of your waste and recycling in the proper manner you can be fined. This includes separating your trash into food waste, recycling, and general waste. Depending on your city, district (구), and which neighborhood (동) you live in, your garbage pickup day will vary. Below is information regarding the waste disposal system and proper ways to dispose of, recycle, and donate items.

General Trash Bags (일반 쓰레기 봉투)

  • Bags can normally be purchased at convenience stores and marts. Residential general trash bags come in 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100L sizes. In terms of cost, for example, in Seoul, the cost is KRW 4,400 for ten 20L bags.

  • Collection times are printed on the bags - place the full trash bags in designated locations

  • Bags are district specific - be sure to buy bags in your district

  • Some marts use special grocery bags that can be reused for general trash. They will be labeled as such. Not all bags you receive from marts are able to be used as trash bags.

General Trash Bag.JPG

Food Waste Bags (음식물 쓰레기 봉투)

  • These bags are smaller and are a different color than the general trash bags. Residential food trash bags come in 2, 3, 5, and 10L sizes. In terms of cost, for example, in Seoul, the cost is KRW 1,800 for ten 2L bags.

  • Some areas (like large apartment complexes) use large containers that keep track of the food waste weight instead of using bags. Simply empty your collected food waste into this container.

  • Food waste bags can be purchased at convenience stores and marts and are district specific.

  • Food waste is collected more frequently than general trash.

  • Remove as much moisture as you can from food waste before disposal, do not include waste that could not be consumed by livestock such as fruit pits, nutshells, egg shells, bones, etc.

Food Trash Bag.JPGFood_Waste.PNG

Recycling (재활용)

  • No specific bag or receptacle unless your housing complex provides them

    • Most large housing complexes will have separate containers labeled for plastic (플라스틱), metal (철), glass (유리), vinyl (비닐), styrofoam (스티로폼), paper (종이), etc.

  • If you do not have appropriate receptacles in your building. Place your recycling streetside in any plastic bag the same day as general trash pickup

  • There are rules as to what is considered recyclable or not. Here is an example list from Jung-gu in Seoul. Busan’s list is here.

Large item disposal (대형 폐기물)

  • Large items require that a fee be paid and a special label attached to the item for pickup and disposal

  • Visit your local neighborhood office (주민센터) to pay a fee and receive a label. This fee could range anywhere from KRW 2,000 for smaller items like a 13” TV to KRW 15,000 for a piano

  • Place the item street side on the appropriate pickup date

Helpful Phrases

What day can I throw out my garbage? (무슨 요일에 쓰레기 버려도 돼요?)

Do you have general trash bags? (일반 쓰레기 봉투 있으세요?)

Do you have food waste bags? (음식물 쓰레기 봉투 있으세요?)

Can I throw this away with food waste? (이것은 음식물 쓰레기와 버려도 돼요?)

How much is it for just one bag? (한 봉투만 얼마예요?)

Please give me ten of the 10 liter bags. (십리터 봉투 10매 주세요)

Can I recycle this? (제가 이것을 재활용 할 수 있어요?)

Where do I put my recycling? (재활용은 어디에서 놓아도 돼요?)

I want to donate this. (제가 이것을 기부하고 싶어요.)

Please accept this for free. (무료로 받아 주세요.)

Donations (기부)

Below are a few places where you can donate goods within Korea. You may also find donation bins at large apartment complexes or officetels. Some donations may be tax deductible in partial or whole.

Garbage/refuse pickers (폐지 줍는 사람)

You may also see garbage/refuse pickers (폐지 줍는 사람) in Korea. They are a common sight in Seoul as well as other parts of Korea. They are usually pulling wheeled carts stacked high with cardboard and other recyclables. Some businesses even agree to give their boxes and other recyclables to specific people. The recyclable items are then turned in at recycling centers for money.

Articles Regarding Waste & Recycling in Seoul

Are you curious on how Seoul manages waste for 10 million residents? Here are some articles about recycling and waste management in Seoul:


Contact the G.O.A.’L Community Mentor for any questions regarding settling in Korea.