Recycling in Korea 101!


 1) It’s 쓰레기 (su-rae-gi) which means trash. 

2) A 통 (tong) is a bin or barrel, so 쓰레기통(su-rae-gi tong) is a trash can/bin.

3) A 봉투 (bong tu) is a plastic bag. So 쓰레기 봉투 (su-rae-gi bong-tu) is a trash bag.

And final here’s a song to help you remember the word:

🎵🎤Let’s talk about su-rae-gi, let’s talk you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about trash!🎵🎤

SUBWAY TRASH CATEGORIES:  This lesson focuses on the bins found in Korean subway/metro stations. These usually only divided trash into three general categories, making it easier to recycle in a rush.

1) 일반 쓰레기 (il-ban su-rae-gi) — Regular trash

2) 재활용 쓰레기 (jae-hwal-yong su-rae-gi)– Recyclable trash

3) 음식 쓰레기 (um-shik su-rae-gi) — Food waste

RECYCLING AT HOME: This section focuses on the bins found on campus, in convenience stores and at our residences. These usually subdivide trash (su-rae-gi)  into 3-5 general categories with some of the categories being combined in one bin (e.g. 캔(Cans/Tins) and 병(Bottles) are often put together).

1) 플라스틱(pu-ra-su-tik) — Plastic (any)

2) 캔(kaen) — Cans/Tins (metal)

3) 병 (byong) — Bottles

4) 유리 (yu-ri) — Glass

5) 종이 (jong-ii) — Paper

NB: *Sometimes 류 (ryu) is added to the end of these words when you see them on the bins. Please don’t worry about it, 류 (ryu) just means category. 

**Also 병 (byong) meaning bottle can be placed after a material to indicate a bottle made of that material (e.g. 유리병(yu-ri byong) = glass bottle).


Below are some extra recycling words which are also common, only a little less so than the previous set of words. At the bottom, I have also added a tip explaining what to do if you’re not sure which category an item falls into.

1) 비닐류 — Vinyl (flexible single-use plastic films/the transparent plastic covers on everything)

2) 페트 / PET — Hard and/or inflexible plastics (e.g. plastic water bottles)

3) 종이팩 — Cartons (e.g. juice cartons, milk cartons etc)

5) 의류 — Clothing

Still don’t know what to do?

Top Tip:

Look for the triangular recycling symbol on the object. Inside the triangle will be Korean writing, just throw it in the bin with the same writing on it. If there are only letters within the triangle, then object is plastic so you can put it in a ‘PET’, ‘페트’ or ‘플라스틱’ recycling bin.

Alright guys, so this concludes Recycling in Korea 101. Since recycling is such an important (and fairly complex) activity here in Korea, I had to post a lot on it, but I hope it’s all been useful. 

Thank you.