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If It's Not the Weather it's the Garbage

They take their garbage very seriously over here in Korea. Our American friends were told off quite sternly (in Korean I'm guessing) when they threw out some garbage into the wrong bins. Funny thing was, no one SAW them do it, they just saw the garbage was incorrectly dumped and knew it MUST be the foreigners (there's just no hiding in Korea)

So, my paranoid must-please-everyone attitude makes me slightly stressed at the notion that one day a little old Korean lady will come to my door, spouting off Korean in what I will only be able to assume is all about garbage. Not perhaps that the building is on fire or would you like some traditional Korean food, no, it will only be about the fact that my perfectionist self is not properly disposing of refuse. Oh how I suck.

After we let the first Tuesday go by, patiently waiting for the garbage man to arrive and collect all the stuff from our hallway, we decided we had to take action.

We asked our friendly Korean teachers who said they'd be more than happy to help but unfortunately at the last minute (any book you read will tell you things aren't EVER done until the last minute) they weren't available so they simply explained the process.

Glass goes in one bag. Plastic in another. Cardboard is separate. Clothes and sheets are recycled as well. Food is completely separate in the compost pile. The rest is garbage, that must be packed up in special Gimhae bags which you must buy. INcentive to not throw anything out. Sounds fairly straighforward.

Except for the fact that we haven't seen THAT many different bins outside. This is where Tuesday comes in.

It's a big party in our complex and I'm assuming every complex to get the garbage and recycling out. Asians are known for being participaters but I never imagined they could actually make the trash 'fun'.

In the parking lot, a big truck waits with excited security guards to collect your broken down cardboard. About 15 women busily stuff bags and bark orders each other about specifics.

Now, these bags are not only broken down by type of substance but also by MAKE of substance. Small glass bottles in this bag. Large glass bottles in this bag. Small plastic bottles in one bag. LIDS IN THIS BAG. LIDS?? Are you kidding me? Who are these people we are sending this recycling to? The planet of anal aliens???? Where the world would collapse in on itself if a lid accidently got left on a bottle?? gasp!! the horror!

There are about 15 different bags all with different types of materials to be recycled.

We didn't actually need to know what we were doing because as soon as we arrived, the ladies started directly us with our refuse. I was even given back a plastic bottle that had about a millimetre of soya sauce left it in.

She said something in Korean which I could only assume meant 'Are you made woman????? This STILL HAS LIQUID IN IT! GO DISPOSE OF IT NOW BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO DISCARD IT! My oh my'.

Off to the compost bucket I went, oddly annoyed at the whole scene. With intense feelings of those culture shock emotions of 'why don't people want to do things the way I do?'.

Two weeks later, I can't imagine doing it any other way.

Maybe I can get myself a new nickname in Canada - Anal Refuse Coordinator. If I have to visit all the apartment complexes in Toronto every week, I think I could turn it into a full time job.


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