South Korea, recycling and composting leader

2022 CESouth Korea

With a recycling and composting rate around 60%, South Korea is a global leader in sustainable waste management initiatives. "Its waste management system, known as jongnyangje, calls for food, garbage, recyclables and bulky items to be separated into color-coded bags. The policy is strict, and there are both penalties for noncompliance (up to 1,000,000 Korean won, or about $785) and rewards for those who report violators (up to $235) . . . The average Korean citizen now throws out about 1.02 kilograms of household waste daily, about a third of the amount produced in 1991 . . . By 2030, South Korea aims to reduce its plastic waste by 50 percent and recycle 70 percent of it." South Korea has emerged as a global frontrunner in diverting food waste away from landfills and incinerators, thanks to the government's substantial investments in processing facilities and the dedicated efforts of its citizens to repurpose waste. From a mere 2.6% in 1996, the nation's food recycling rate skyrocketed to nearly 100% in 2022.

Quote: David Belcher, "In South Korea, an Emphasis on Recycling Yields Results," The New York Times, May 21, 2022.

Thomas Parker, "From Austria to Wales: The five best recycling countries in the world," NS Packaging, November 13, 2020.

Max S Kim, "South Korea has almost zero food waste. Here’s what the US can learn," The Guardian, November 20, 2022.

Image: TFurban via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic