Sunday, September 29, 2013

Adventures in taking out the trash/recyclables

I feel like there are lots of wrappers / unnecessary packaging here in Korea, but I guess there are a lot in the states too.  The difference is that here you can recycle them, whereas in the states they would get thrown in the trash.  Korea is big on recycling.

Thanks to a new toaster oven in my apartment when I moved in, I've had a cardboard box in here during the past month.  It's where I've been throwing all of my various recyclables to avoid figuring out the sorting system outside.  Here's where you take trash/recyclables to outside of my building:

In that yellow trash bin is where you put food waste, which must be in a special yellow bag.  You can purchase the yellow plastic bags (for organic waste) and special white plastic bags (for non-organic waste) at supermarkets and convenience stores.  You must use those bags because the cost of removing the waste is included in the cost of the bag.

Ok so food waste in the yellow bin on the left.  Then in the hanging bags up against the brick half-wall with red/white signs are the recyclables.  I'm pretty sure there are only three categories here, but by peering inside the bags it wasn't exactly clear.  Hence why I've just been letting the recyclables stack up in my cardboard box.

And then I think the plastic bags on the ground in front of the recycling is waste and/or paper recyclables.  I think.

On Sunday afternoon I was in a productive mood.  I did laundry and cleaned up my apartment, so I thought it would be a good day to finally take out all my recyclables.  Also it was raining, and I didn't see anyone outside -- meaning I could figure out how to sort my recyclables in peace.

So I take my big box outside, set it on the trash bags and start putting stuff into the different bags.  The first two bags had thicker plastic in them, like water bottles and 2L soda bottles.  

The next one (which looks blue-ish in the picture) had some glass bottles inside, as well as other smaller wrappers and a mixture of things.  The last bag only had three aluminum cans in it.

So I added my big 2L water bottles to either of the first two bags, put my glass bottles in the blue bag, but wasn't exactly sure what to do with all of my other wrappers.  I started to just put them in the blue bag, but I was doubtful on the correctness of that.

Next thing I know, out of nowhere there's a woman standing right next to me, and she somehow takes my place and starts taking some stuff out of the bin and putting it back into my box!  She mumbled a few words to me, but I think she knew that I didn't know what she was saying (probably due to my silence during the whole thing).  So I awkwardly, silently stood there as I watched her grab the three cans from the far bag next and put them into my box.  I bet she thinks I can't read and put them in there, I thought.  Those weren't my cans!  I wanted to tell her.  I didn't put them in there!  She took a couple more things out of the blue bag and put them back into my box, then took my box over to what looked like a stack of cardboard on the ledge behind the yellow trash bin.  I slowly backed up, as it was clear the woman didn't want/need me there any more.  Then I turned around and went back inside.  

It was such a bizarre encounter.  I walked back upstairs thinking to myself, "What just happened?!"  And I still can't figure out where the heck she came from!  She must have been watching that trash/recyclables area like a hawk.  Later I thought maybe the trash got picked up on Sundays or Mondays, so she was there to organize it?  I will keep a lookout over the next few weeks, but in the meantime I'll enjoy the empty space where my big box once stood.
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