Recycling frightens me

For some reason South Koreans are known to be very good recyclers. I say “for some reason” because it seems that every street is littered with a fair amount of trash and cigarette butts. Sometimes I see people throw things onto the street and I am reminded of High School. A friend of mine would throw his empty lunch bags on the ground, when we complained he said “gives the janitors a job.” I can only assume a similar thought is going through the minds of my Korean counterparts.

I guess you could argue that littering is different than recycling. But that’s like arguing that Garden State was a good movie…in other words, I’m not listening.

Anyways, onto recycling. About this they are anal and retentive. I guess I should sort my trash and take it out in separate bags, so that the old women who walk around with the hand carts can easily pick up my trash.

(sidenote: yes, the trash collection system is a group of old women who may or may not be actually employed by the city. They might just be picking up trash for fun. I’ve never been clear on them.)

I never sort my trash. First off, I don’t have the space. Second, I guess I really just don’t know what constitutes recyclable goods anymore. I used to be glass with glass. But then it became green glass with green glass and number 2 cardboard with number 3 cardboard but not number 4 cardboard. They pretty much lost me at glass.

So instead, I find myself skulking about at night. Taking my trash out only after dark, when there will be less people to potentially see me improperly recycle.

But tonight, as I walked out of my apartment – carrying a large bag of unsorted waste, 3 multicolored glass bottles and a dunkin donuts box that I filled with broken Christmas lights – there stood the hand cart ajuma and she did not look happy to see me. What was I going to do? Was I going to pretend that all this garbage I was carrying was not garbage, but in fact valuable materials that I am transporting at 11 p.m?

I briefly thought about walking down an alleyway to deposit my trash elsewhere, but really I had been caught. Besides, I can’t speak Korean. Who knows what the hell she was saying to me.


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