Today's story begins with some background on my Korean trash and recycling experiences, so bear with me. Conceptually, the trash is not much different from my city in America, with both trash collection and recycling programs. In Korea, they recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, styrofoam, glass jars and bottles, and aluminum and steel cans (some cities in America probably do take all these items, although my city only takes cans, plastic and paper). I typically save up until the bag(s) get full, and then I carry them to the basement recycling bins. Since I can't read the labels, I have to look inside each bin and figure out what goes where. Thankfully, I have never visited the bins just after they were emptied, or I would be in trouble! Trash is not too much different than America, except that in Seoul there are special trash bags you must purchase according to the "dong" you live in. My guess (unconfirmed) is that this is how the garbage collection is funded, because the bags are more expensive than I think they should be - I think I paid about US$7 for 20 bags (20 liter size).
One funny experience these past couple weeks has been the recycling bins belonging to the neighboring apartment building. They are located almost opposite my bedroom window, and I like to sleep with the window open to get some fresh Seoul air as I sleep. Mrs. Stumber was amazed at how much noise is being made all night long. Many noises you would associate with the city, like cars and the occassional siren. However, there seemed to be an excessive amount of glass breakage going on. I finally decided that apartment must pay the guard to step outside to the bin every 15 minutes and break a few bottles. Mrs. Stumbler's theory is that apartment residents located directly above the recycling bins were just dropping their bottles out their windows into the bins all night long as they were drinking.
Now let me explain the wet garbage. In Korea, apparently a kitchen sink garbage disposal is unusual. Instead, we have been instructed to save all the normal "wet" kitchen garbage. Until last week, this garbage was kept in a small plastic bag located on the wall over the sink, the bag sits inside a small plastic holder with a suction cup to hold it on the wall. Even though we don't to this in my family at home in America, some people do it to save the wet garbage for garden compost, for example. Here is a photo of that bag:
Wet Garbage the Old Way
When it fills up, or smells too bad, you take it downstairs to the wet garbage bins. These are easy to identify by their smell - there is no need to understand the Korean words or to look inside. Before, I would just drop my bag into the bin. However, I think you're supposed to untie the bag, empty it into the bin, and throw away the bag separately. I haven't done that, because I want to minimize the exposure to that bad smell - if I get caught, I will just pretend to be a dumb American who doesn't know the rules.
Two weeks ago, all residents were issued one of these official wet garbage pails. Here it is:
Special Wet Garbage Pail Assembled
A clever idea, but there is one problem with it. Before, I could take the garbage with me on my way out. But with this thing, I have to bring it back upstairs to my apartment. I'm not sure it is an improvement. You will notice there is a flat plate with a handle, and a spigot on the bottom of the bucket. You can squeze the wet garbage by pressing down on the plate, and collect the juice for making health drinks.
Okay, finally I'll get on with today' story. It was raining in the morning, but it looked clearer at lunch time. I headed out to have the shrimp rice porridge for lunch. As I was preparing to leave, I said to myself, "let me just take one bag of the recycling down with me". Well, I should have listened to myself. I kept grabbing more bags, and soon my hands were full of 4 bags and one full box. At this point, I probably would have been safe, but, I decided to go ahead and get the wet garbage pail from the sink. I stuffed it into the already full box, and headed out. As I entered the hallway, and tried to close the door behind me, I dropped everything and the garbage pail spilled on the floor. Yuccccckkkkkk. I had to clean up the mess, oh what a bad smell.
I finally got everything put in the proper bins, returned the garbage pail to the apartment. Oh - one other bad thing, I have to wash out the pail, too. One more thing to wash. I went out to lunch, and decided to canel my trip to the store. It was raining too much for the walk. Maybe later this afternoon I will go if it clears up.