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Reduce, reuse and recycle

One thing that surprised the most when I visited Korea back in 2010 was the amount of material that gets recycled. I remember when I was in grade 1 or 2, when volume-rate garbage disposal system was first introduced, I could no longer throw out my garbage in a regular plastic bag; instead, I had to purchase a plastic bag specifically designed for garbage collection.

I also remember that at the same time, a different bag was introduced for throwing out food waste. The garbage chutes in the apartment were bolted shut, and it became much more inconvenient to dispose of residential waste.

I can almost recite the words from the public announcement system on the days of garbage collection that said "today is garbage collection day. Please come down and put your waste in appropriate bins".

Over the years I have been away from Korea, things have improved even though it is not without problems of rapid industrialization. Where there used to be a mountain of garbage is now a park that attracts visitors. I spent my toddler years near the said landfill, and I remember my mom telling me stories of flames shooting out from the ground.

Now, proper garbage sorting has become a social norm, and people eagerly volunteer their time every week to properly categorize different recyclable items, rather than putting them in a large blue box. If a household does not follow the protocol, they are publicly shamed for being irresponsible.

Given the regional differences in Canada, what Korea did cannot be replicated to achieve the same level of success. Canadian municipalities can, however, make reducing waste easier at household level by providing the necessary tools. For example, The current organic waste disposal bin adopted by many municipalities is not very kitchen-friendly. I have seen plastic cat litter disposal systems that are better designed and odour free! It is time to put some heads together and innovate the way the things are currently done. 



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