Trashcans in Seoul

After only 2 weeks in South Korea, there was 1 thing that got me extremely excited when I stepped back onto American soil. Trashcans! Yes, it’s odd. It was nearly impossible to find a trash can on the streets of South Korea making it almost stressful.


Left: Carrying our drinks 
Top Right: Bukchon Hanok Village, traditional roof tops
Bottom Right: The drinks we got at the convenient store

On a regular day during our trip in South Korea, a cup of coffee was a must but if we decided to get our coffee on the go we did not know what to do with our empty cups. This was a lesson we learned from day 1. When we were walking around Bukchon Hanok Village, we stopped by a convenient store where we got some iced drinks. They come in a variety of different types of drinks in a bag. You pick your drink, grab a cup of ice and pour your drink into the plastic cup – a quick and cheap drink on the go. But when we finished our drinks we had no where to throw them away. We ended walking all day with our empty cups in hand.

There were rare occasions where we did find a trashcan on the streets, but most of the time they were full and trash was scattered all around the trash can. Does this mean there should be more trashcans to prevent that should the trashcan just not be there? But then again, we often found piles of trash randomly on the street – that’s nice of people to make a pile of trash instead of littering – wait, that’s still littering.


Not exactly an example of most of the trashcans we saw on the streets, but we were so excited to see a trashcan

Although we had a hard time with our trash at the Bukchon Hanok Village, we were grateful that most of the major tourist spots in Seoul did have trash cans. We were always so excited to see trashcans! Oh, how the little things made us so happy.


Officetel trash sorting enter. Everything has to be sorted!
Some of the things that needed to be sorted out: tin/can, paper box for milk, styrofoam, plastic bottles, plastic

IlsanOfficetel Trash Sorting

The rest of the trash sorting area.
Top: Trash that has been sorted and bagged up
Bottom: Plenty of cardboard boxes etc. sorted in more bins

Trash was not just an issue when we were out and about. We stayed in a couple different guest houses as well as our friends officetel during our trip and we had to learn to separate our trash. At home we simply have 2 different trash cans (most of the time) trash and recycle; but in South Korea it was a little more than that. The guest houses had several different categories – often pretty simple – trash, plastic, paper, cans, etc. That I can handle. As for the officetel, we were lucky our host family did not stress us out with the sorting at their officetel but we walked by the the trash center in their officetel all the time and just from that site I was stressed for them. It almost made me feel guilty throwing anything away at their officetel knowing that they would have to sort it.

They later told me they really were stressed out about it when they first moved back to South Korea and had to deal with the trash sorting. Apparently you don’t have to sort as much if you lived in a apartment building or house.


Trashcan in the San Francisco Airport

I think the trash sorting is a good approach when it comes to trash handling etc. I bet it makes a big difference to the environment as well, it’s just something one would have to adapt to (and you really can’t be lazy).

All of this just makes me second think throwing my trash in a trashcan without considering the recycle bin (that’s often right next to the trash can), that’s the least I can do.

Thank you Christie for going out of your way to snap a couple pictures of the trash sorting area for me.

Is this an issue where you live? Or did you encounter this stressful situation in South Korea? What do you do?


Another trash sorting area. Doesn’t look as intense as my friends officetel.


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