On Cultural Encounters and Tangents
By Maggie Velasquez-Choi
Trash Talking - If you’re looking for ideas on how to encourage or enforce recycling and garbage reduction in your community then consider
Because the policymakers took into account that some people would cheat and put their trash into public containers, 90% of street trash cans and trash bags were removed. A mother stated in a newspaper that she got after her son for throwing away his candy wrapper on the street and she made him pick it up and they went looking for a trash can and couldn’t find one after an hour. She understands why the streets are littered as they are and why people throw trash on the street. Of course, if you’re caught by a city worker you’ll be fined from twenty-five to a hundred dollars. Thus people will stash it in mailboxes, vending machines and all kinds of crevices. All trash cans were removed from the subway stations, except one by the ticket counter. They said it was because of the subway station bombs-in-the-trash can scares that were happening in Europe. But they did not remove the vending machines. The cleaners have job security there but they are tired out. Japan removed their trash cans from the subway stations but they also removed the vending machines. France changed theirs to be see-through.
People (and street cleaners) are complaining that the plan isn’t working but the government won’t back down. They have already removed 90% of the pre-existing trash cans in public areas and they will remove 100% from state parks this summer.
They said that the garbage output has decreased by 20% so they’ll continue with the policy.
There are no easy answers. Although each Korean generates much less garbage than a typical American does it has a bigger impact here because of the crowdedness (11 million people in Seoul) and the limited landfill space. Once when we were driving on the north side of Seoul (we live in a southern suburb) I spotted a strange-looking mountain. It didn’t look like the rest of them. It was about 4 miles long and flat on top, like a mesa. It was covered in greenery but not bushy with trees like the rest of the mountains. At the top of the flat mesa were power windmills. My husband explained to me that it was a mountain of trash. Just a few years back when Seoul hadn’t yet spread thus far this was a landfill in the outskirts of town. The city dumped the trash, covering it daily, until it was a huge mountain and then covered it in greenery. A new mountain was started elsewhere.
It’s a noble thought and action to recycle and waste as little as possible. It’s not fun when we’re forced to do it but if we aren’t forced sometimes we tend to be lazy and not do it at all.