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South Korea achieves near 100% food waste recycling

good news Dec 12, 2022

In 1996, South Korea recycled less than 3% of its food waste, letting the rest go to landfills. Today, the East Asian nation has achieved a near 100% food waste recycling rate after implementing a country-wide mandatory composting scheme in 2013.

Under the new scheme, Korean citizens are asked to separate their food waste into separate yellow bags that are collected streetside nearly every day. Many credit this frequency of pickup and relative ease of use as one of the key reasons for the program's remarkable success. After the "waste" is collected, it is then taken to industrial facilities where it is recycled into fertilizer, biogas, or animal feed.

In addition to reducing strain on landfills and creating useful new resources, the new system has proven to be a powerful climate solution. Food waste in landfills is a notorious source of methane, among the most potent greenhouse gases. According to the World Economic Forum, roughly 10% of all greenhouse gases worldwide come from food waste. In the United States, food waste is the third largest source of methane in the country.

Simply by keeping food waste away from landfills, South Korea has taken bold, crucial steps in confronting the climate crisis and created a roadmap for other countries to follow suit.


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