Seoul Campus

2. Seoul’s Recycle

Date 2017-09-19 Writer ssunha
  • Waste Management
  • Jeamin Song
  • 2017-09-19

< MODULE 2 >

Hello everyone welcome to the second module of my lecture. In the first module we have reviewed some of the challenges and opportunities in waste sector and in the second module I’d like to introduce how the waste policy has changed over time in Korea.

Let's start from 1960s. Before 1960s, actually there was not much attention to waste management, so many of the waste were just dumped in rivers or in any empty areas without any former collection or treatment. It was in 1961 when the first official legal framework was introduced. The Waste Cleaning Act is the first law which is related to solid waste management in Korea, and the main focus of the law was to ensure the consistent and fast and regular collection of waste and human waste but basically its focus is on cleaning.

Due to the policy priority on economic growth, the act was not implemented appropriately. The improper waste treatment has caused so many waste problems as we have seen in the first module. So it created serious environmental problems in Seoul, contaminating rive, land and groundwater. So there was a strong demand from the citizens for the improvement of waste treatment. 

And against that backdrop, finally in 1986 Waste Management Act was introduced. That act is a first legal framework which sees the waste management in an integrated way. However the focus of the policy in that time remained on the final treatment of waste because as you recall from the first module we talked about the Nanjido, right? Nanjido was the only landfill site in Seoul and since it was running out of its capacity the government interest lied in finding a new landfill site.

In 1990s, the time when the government started to recognize the importance of waste as resources, the government strengthened the standards for waste treatment and also recycling became much more popular than the previous decade thanks to the act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources in 1992.

So there has been a policy shift from the maximum treatment, to minimum generation and treatment of waste became focused on the upstream of waste generation. Finally since 2000, with the economic development, the type of waste has been diversified. The volume and the amount of non-conventional household waste such as electronics, vehicle and construction, have increased over time.

So it became very important to target those different types of waste. And another emphasis of waste management in this current period is resource recovery. So basically now the government and also citizens are aware that the waste can be a source of resources. So basically resource recovery efforts include the conversion of a combustible waste to energy and to solid fuel, and also conversion of organic wastes like food to biogas, and also residual hit recovery of incineration.

So this is another policy shift from recycling to use waste as resources. This is the summary of the changes in waste management policy over time. So we started from very passive way to clean waste, focusing on cleaning and then move towards waste treatment. We had a lot of priority on proper treatment of waste, and then we move towards recycling, and now we are aiming to create a circular economy. And as I explained before in the first module, in a circular economy the Seoul Metropolitan Government aims to create a society with zero waste.

It's not impossible. Seoul has experiences more than 40 years in waste management, and we have made significant improvements in waste management. In the third module I will share some of the best practices and policies. Before I move to the third module, I’d like to present the waste management hierarchy. As you can see from here, waste management hierarchy presents all waste management stages in the order of priority. So it stresses the importance of prevention and reduction as the most preferred, and disposal as the least preferred. The Seoul Metropolitan government, the Ministry of Environment has introduced various measures and policies targeting each stage.
These are some of the examples of those policies and measures, but in the third module of my lecturer I will focus these three, highlighted in red, in detail. So thank you very much for your attention and I will discuss more in detail in module three.