Trash and Recycling in South Korea

Read my thoughts here on the wonders and annoyances of the Korea trash system.

Recycling and Trash in offpost housing near Camp Humphreys

  • Most offpost housing will have a community location to drop off trash and recycling. These locations usually have a CCTV camera.


    Trash sites may look different in each area.

  • Watch what others do – A sure fire way to learn how to recycle in your area is to watch the locals.
  • Buy the White trash bags or Orange compost bags locally – If you’ve moved here from another town in Korea, their bags will not work. Local bags only. There are bags available at the commissary but they cost more and there are less sizes available.
  • Trash has to be taken out on weekday evenings after the sun has gone down– I see people putting trash out during all hours of the day/ the weekend but the trash bags say when it is allowed. It is in English as well. If you are walking around the AK plaza in Pyeongtaek, you may see electronic signs reminding citizens when to take out their trash.
  • The recycle bins may or may not be labeled – Any labels will be in Korean. Determine if you actually need to separate before trying to translate the hangerl. No one in my area does, so do as the locals do!


    Clearly labeled but no one actually separates.

  • Compost goes in Orange bags – Any food, meat or vegetable, goes into the orange bag. Items that do not compost well go into the trash. Most bones, clam shells, egg shells and fruit pits do not compost.
  • Loose Recyclables go in the recyclable bins – Anything with the recycle symbol can be put into recycling. Also, any packaging from items bought in South Korea are recyclable.
    • Candy wrappers, snack wrappers, chip bags, icecream wrappers etc
    • Cardboard / paper
    • Glass
    • Styrofoam
    • Cling wrap, plastic bags
    • Plastic from packaging
    • Lightbulbs
    • Batteries
    • Cotton clothing, sneakers, book bags
  • Cannot be recycled – If it didn’t come with food in it, it probably goes in the trash. Many items from the commissary come in non-recyclable packaging and wrappers
    • Certain plastics – Coat Hangers, toys, phones etc
    • Plastic coated paper -papercups/ plates, milk cartons from the commisarry
    • Glass bakeware, cosmetic bottles etc
    • Pillows, bedding
    • Wrappers and packaging without a recycle symbol
    • Metals used to hold toxic materials, paints or oils
    • Other items with toxic chemicals like mercury batteries or flourescent bulbs – There may be a special box off to the side for these items
  • Trash in the White Bags
    • Non-Recyclable items
    • Dirty items that cannot or are not worth cleaning – Paper towels, bathroom garbage etc.
    • DO NOT PUT COMPOST IN THE TRASH – if it’s noticeable that compost is going into the trash, you might get a visit from a government official or the garbage truck will refuse to take your trash and it will sit there until the problem is fixed.
  • Large/ Bulky Items – These items will need a special sticker before the garbage men will haul it away. If it is a useful item, feel free to put it next to the trash for a day to see if anyone picks it up and takes it for you. Otherwise, ask your realtor to buy a sticker for you.

Please visit Korea4Expats to learn more about garbage disposal in South Korea.


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