Seoul Campus

4. Seoul’s Recycle

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

< MODULE 4 >

Hello everyone, welcome to the last module of my lecture. So as I explained before, we will wrap up the lecture with the major achievements Seoul Metropolitan Government and Korea has achieved through the experience of waste management.  and also we will wrap up with key lesson to be learned from waste management experience.
This slide summaries the major performance of waste management. We are comparing two time periods, the 1990 and 2010. As you can see from this picture, in 1990 as we have seen from module one, landfill was totally open dumping and it was not properly managed, causing such a serious environmental and social problems.
But over only twenty years it has transformed significantly. Now it has been turned into a beautiful park and all the waste landfill sites in Korea has been managed in a sanitary manner. The other indicators are also very impressive.
In terms of waste generated per capita in 1990 it was almost 2.5 kilogram per day and it has dropped by 57 percent, to 1.06 kilogram per day. And in terms of the waste, the amount of waste landfilled in 1990 was almost 30,000 tons per day but it dropped significantly to around 1,500 tons per day.
In terms of recycle, it was only 338 tons per day and it had increased to more than 6,000 tons per day. So if you look at those improvements in the major waste management indicators the figures are very impressive. If we look at the details in terms of waste generation per capita over time, we can clearly see the trend in the decline of waste generation.
Up to early 1990 because of the economic growth, waste per capita has steadily increased, but since 1990 the amount had dropped significantly. It's not just a result of one single policy but rather it's a result which had been achieved trough the introduction of a combination of various measures and policies.
As I explained in the first module, usually it is believed that the economic growth has a positive relationship with waste generation per capita. So if we considered the GDP increase per capita the drastic changes reduction in waste per capita it's quite remarkable trend. The other major achievement we have achieved is the diversification in the treatment methods.
As you see from the figure until in the early 1990s most of the waste, it's not about the amount of waste, but if you look at the treatment method of waste you see here, you see a more light color part, right? Here, the deeper green, refers to the amount of waste landfilled. A little bit lighter green color refers to the amount of waste incinerated, and the lighter color here refers to the amount of waste recycled, and here, up to 1990 it was only landfill.
However, as time goes you see the bigger portion of recycling. So one of the major factors which contributed to the diversification in the treatment method is the introduction of Volume-based Fee System as I explained before. Lastly we have found that the Seoul experience have proven that if waste management is done properly it can create not only environmental benefit, but also economic benefits as well.
So from the example of landfill power generation, and also resource recovery facility, we have witnessed that a waste sector can be the source of opportunity creating this both environmental and economic benefits at the same time. Now let's wrap up with some key lessons I would like to share with you to provide some useful insights on waste management in many other cities.
The first lesson I’d like to emphasize is that the importance of paradigm shift. As we have reviewed the policy change in waste management in Korea over the last forty years, the focus has been changed. In the past the major focus was on the final treatment. However now we are focusing on the upstream of waste generation, on the demand side.
We have found that in order to have a sustainable waste management, it is very important to target the upstream of waste generation. And also we have experienced that waste can be used as valuable resources. It contributes to the creation of circular economy with zero waste society. The zero waste society can be achieved.
It's not impossible to achieve. With the changes in behavior and perception of citizens we can really create a city without waste. The second lesson I'd like to share with you is that there is a need to respond the NIMBY in a smart way.
As I explained before, many local municipalities and governments have a very high difficulty in securing land or in building a new facility for waste treatment because of the strong resistance from the residents. So the Korean government has approached the NIMBY phenomena from the two perspectives.
The first one was to appreciate neighborhoods in the area by providing some incentives and also ensuring the environmental quality. The second approach was to promote the joint use of waste treatment facilities as we have seen from the example of Sodokwon Landfill Site and resource recovery facility in Seoul.
By having this regional landfill or incineration facilities it also improve the economic and technical efficiency of those facilities as well. Thirdly we have found the use economic incentive can be a powerful tool to reduce waste generation.

As we have seen from example of Volume-based Fee System, people react to incentives. People make efforts to reduce their waste since they have to pay more if they wanted to produce more waste. And it's not just about the behavior change but it really changed public perception on waste and waste management.
People get more interested in a waste reduction and they hope for environmentally friendly products and looking for a smaller packaging etc. So these changes in perception automatically has a lot to the increase in waste reduction efforts and reuse and exchange and separation in recycling practice.
Next lesson is the importance of sufficient preparation and strong enforcement. When the government introduces new policy or new measure, it is often confronted with strong resistance or low participation, it is very common.

So in order to introduce a new policy, before its introduction, systematic and thorough preparation and enforcement should be done. As we have seen from the example of Volume-based Fee System, before its introduction the government had a thorough feasibility study and also they had a pilot project to test the illegibility of the projects.
So that kind of preparation is critical, and the second important factor for the successful implementation of a policy is a strong enforcement. For the case of Volume-based Fee System in the beginning of its implementation there were many issues like illegal dumping or like low awareness of recycling.
However the government had introduced very strong enforcement tools like monetary penalty. If illegal dumping is found they had to pay a lot of money. Government also install CCTV to monitor any illegal dumping as well. So this kind of sufficient preparation and strong enforcement is another critical factors to increase the effectiveness of a new policy. And last but not the least the active citizen participation is very important, especially in the waste sector.
All the waste is created by the citizens and they are the ones who separate and who recycle the waste. So without their participation the sustainable waste management cannot be achieved, we have seen that the enhancement of the public awareness on waste education is very important to increase the citizen participation.
And also education and promotion to raise public awareness on waste issues should be promoted by the government. As we have seen from the example of Volume-based Fee System if cities change their perception it will change their behaviors as well, contributing to the sustainable waste management.
And from the perspective of the residents in the area of waste treatment facility, the government or the facility should have a close partnership with the residents. As we have seen from the example of Sodokwon landfill site, they have created fund to support community in that area, to provide some incentive. Also they institutionalize the organization called the Residents Counsel to represent the voices from the residents.
This kind of partnership is very, very important in reducing some potential conflict that can be made between the government and the residents in the area. So here throughout the four modulus I have introduced how Seoul Metropolitan Government as well as Ministry of Environment has conducted our waste management over the last 40 years, and also I have presented to some of the best practices and policies which were evaluated to have a good contribution to the current waste management, and lastly in the last module, I am suggesting some of the key lessons we can learn from Seoul’s experience..
So I hope these lessons and these experiences of Seoul can provide some insights on waste management in other cities. During my lecture we have learnt about waste management in Seoul and Korea.
In the first module we have discussed some of the challenges and opportunities in a waste sector, and then in the second module we have reviewed policy changes in waste management in Korea over time, and in the third module I have presented three best practices and policies in waste management, and lastly in the fourth module we have shared some of the achievements we have made in waste sector, and also I wrapped up with some key lessons from Seoul’s experience.
I hope you have enjoyed the lecture, and also I hope that the lecture can provide some useful insights on waste management in other cities as well. And if you have any questions about the lecture please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thank you very much for your attention.