Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Before coming to Korea, I never really associated this country with the idea of recycling - perhaps it was the simultaneous images of heavy industry and a rampant consumer society - not, one would think, a natural home for lots of environmental activists concerned about saving the planet.

In fact, not only does Korea have recycling laws, they are extensive, requiring each household to sort their rubbish in a variety of ways pre-disposal. But it's not so much the green lobby which drives the recycling culture, as the lack of land-fills. I always meant to write more about this, but actually there's an excellent blog post on it here.

Of all the different types of waste that need separating, in many ways it's the leftover food which is the most problematic, attracting flies in the heat and humidity of a Korean summer and generating the kind of combined smells that you would think impossible to be composed of anything edible. Let me tell you, things have been created in the bottom of the bin in our apartment which are probably in breach of the Geneva Convention.

So this being Korea, there is, almost inevitably, a high-tech solution to the organic waste problem. Behold the 음식물처리기/'food waste processor' (to approximately translate) - a innocuous looking electrically-powered box which discarded organic leftovers are placed into.

In itself, this would be nothing remarkable, but the clever bit is that within the space of a few hours the machine works its wonders leaving previously soggy food remnants completely dry and fairly odour-free, while the filter ensures that your apartment isn't filled with smell of the effort in-between. What smell does remain if anything can be pleasant in a potpourri sort of way, as opposed to the aroma associated with rotting. So what remains in the box can be placed with the rest of the dried leftovers without bothering anyone.

Of course, while it solves a certain waste problem it's probably not very green considering the amount of energy involved in processing let alone that involved in manufacturing the device in the first place, but then that's not really the point. This 190,000 won unit (about £101) solves the problem of decaying food smells and for some Koreans, that's a price worth paying. In fact, as some units are several times more expensive than this basic model, for some it must either be a problem worthy of considerable expenditure, or it's another example of high-tech consumer culture gone mad.

Korean tags: 쓰레기통, 음식, 쓰레기


Melissa said...

Wow! I LIKE it!

I'm going to buy one. Tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to buy one if it comes in polka dots with stainless steel trim! :)

Mike said...

Actually, I've seen some colour combinations for this model which aren't so far off that :-)

Anonymous said...

Recently, I was researching on recycling and organic waste in Korea and I didn't know about that. Interesting. =p

Sorry to trouble you with my emails but thanks! ^^

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