Down in the subway stations, there are zero garbage cans. The reason for this was to eliminate any chances of terrorist attacks within subway stations. It's a huge pain in the butt when you want to throw away some garbage, but there are absolutely no garbage cans in sight. How did this happen?
Well, the South Korean government developed in 1995 a new garbage disposal system to reduce waste. Part of this involved purchasing standard garbage bags for disposal (different colors according to where you live) which is supposed to reduce the amount of garbage per person. According to an article from the Korean Herald:
The new system was found to have decreased the nation's waste by almost 20 percent in a decade, according to the Ministry of Environment. The amount of garbage per person fell to 0.95 kilograms per day last year in Korea, meeting the standards of developed countries. The figure was 2.3 kilograms per person per day in 1994, when South Korea had loose regulations on waste management.
Alright, so it looks like this new system has been effective--but there's a new problem: random piles of garbage accumulating all over the city because there are no garbage cans! When did they disappear? According to that same article:
Seoul city faced further criticism from citizens in 2005 for abolishing 780 trashcans in 263 subway stations. The city removed all the trashcans on the platforms, only leaving the ones near the ticket windows.
The funny thing is...the garbage cans have all been removed, yet vending machines have stayed. So where should people put their garbage? Most people just leave garbage on benches or throw it onto the floor--there's no other option unless you carry the garbage with you.
So on the weekend while we were meandering around Myeongdong, looking for a garbage can to dispose of my plastic Starbucks cup...I found this friendly little pile of trash:
With every take out cup at Starbucks, 100 won (10 cents US) is added to the cost of your drink. If you return your cup, you get the 100 won back. However, since we were no where near the Starbucks I decided to do something drastic--contribute to the trash pile. Hey, you know what they say..."when in Rome, do as the Romans do". Watch and learn how it's done, people:
If we chose to return to Starbucks, we would get a refund from one of these handy machines. It's based on the "honor system" so you could be evil and get an extra 100 won (I don't know who would do that though--this video is from a previous occasion!). Check out the video to see what I mean:
Do you think having less garbage cans will result in less trash? What do you do with your garbage when you're down in the subway stations?