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How Jeju turns waste into resources
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승인 2012.03.23  11:10:02
페이스북 트위터
This is the second part of a series on the island’s waste management. — Ed.

▲ Workers at Hoecheon landfill sort through recyclables from garbage collected in Jeju City.Photo by Angela Kim

On average, 180 tons of the island’s waste is incinerated daily, while 112 tons is dumped into landfills. On top of that, 337.5 tons of recyclable waste is recycled. In 2010, 57.4 percent of all Jeju City waste was recycled, while only 40 percent was recycled in Seogwipo City.

On the island, there are two main waste disposal facility complexes — one in Jeju City and one in Seogwipo City. Both facilities are equipped with not only landfills but also food waste resource centers and sorting plants for recyclables.

The Weekly visited Jeju City’s largest landfill to describe in detail the island’s waste disposal process.

A total of 203,320 square meters in Hoecheon, Jeju City, was designated as a landfill in 1992. It began solely with a landfill capacity of 1.7 million tons of waste, but the city gradually built other waste management facilities in the area.

“We cannot say that the landfill does not have a harmful effect on the environment,” said Kang Jae Byung, subsection chief of Jeju City’s Environmental Facility Management Department. “However, the city tries very hard to minimize the damage.”

According to Kang, Hoecheon’s waste disposal facilities follow very strict regulations.

▲ At the island’s 10 landfills (totalling 317,200 m2) about 130 tons of waste is buried everyday. Photo by Angela Kim

In fact, to align with these regulations, at the bottom of the landfill there are a series of protective layers made out of various materials. For example, there is a water-resistant layer to prevent soil and water contamination from waste runoff.

The Hoecheon landfill is divided into four zones, three of which have reached maximum capacity. After a zone has reached maximum capacity, perforated drainpipes are installed at about 1.5 meters below the surface. Landfill gases are collected through these drainpipes and then turned into electricity with the use of generators that are owned by a private company. That company then sells the energy on a daily basis to the Korea Electric Power Corporation. The price of electricity fluctuates daily, however Jeju City receives three percent profit of what the private company sells it for as non-tax receipts.

Surprisingly, all recyclable waste is sorted manually. After trucks collect all recyclable garbage, it is dumped at the recycling facility. A group of workers perform primary sorting with broomsticks who push the trash onto a conveyor belt which connects to the second floor. On the second floor, seven to eight workers stand by the belt and by hand sort glass from plastic and put them into separate containers.

“With a proper facility, 90 percent of recyclables should be recycled, but at the moment, due to a lack of labor force, we barely manage to sort out 60 percent of recyclables. Since all facilities have to process garbage everyday, machines tend to age faster,” the recycling facility manager Moon Jeong Bok told The Weekly.

Next month, construction of a new recycling plant will be finished where about 90 percent of recyclables will be properly sorted.

When Moon was asked how well do Jeju citizens recycle he said, “It’s horrible, not good at all.”

He said for Jeju citizens to improve as recyclers, they just simply need to put recyclable materials into their proper containers. He also emphasized that for plastic or glass to be properly recycled, other substances, like food, should be removed from the container first.

He also mentioned that most paper on Jeju is not being recycled due to the lack of a paper processing facility on the island. Currently, all recyclable materials like aluminum cans and PET bottles are compressed and transported to the mainland, but in the case of paper, the transfer cost is greater than the profit.

Starting at 4 a.m., food waste is separately collected at Clean Houses by yellow trucks that are equipped with sealing containers to prevent odors from escaping into the streets. Then the food waste is dumped into hoppers and ground while a magnetic machine removes foreign substances like spoons and chopsticks. Once ground, the waste is then dried and fermented for approximately 15 days before being transferred to another plant where saw dust is added and the food waste is aerated to accelerate the fermentation process.

Typically, 80 percent of food waste is composed of water, so when 100 kilograms is processed, only about five percent is turned into fertilizer. In the past, the city used ducks and worms to process food waste, however, the city changed to its current procedure so as to process more than 100 tons of food waste everyday.

The final product — fertilizer — is sold for 2,000 won per 20 kilogram package. It costs 42,000 won to process a ton of food waste into fertilizer. In 2002, the city earned about 20 million won from selling the fertilizer.

“This year, we produced a lot more [fertilizer] than last year. I think we’ll make 30 to 40 million won this year,” said food waste facility manager Ko Seong Pil.

To accommodate for the increase in food waste, the city is planning to build a new food waste resource plant in the complex by 2015.

“With the new facility, we will be able to generate electricity from gases as well as make fertilizer,” said Ko. Also, it will have the capacity to process 180 tons of food waste a day, a large increase compared to its present 110 capacity, especially considering that the city produces 143 tons a day.

Combustible waste is transferred to an incineration plant where it is shredded then burned at 900 degrees Celsius.

Jeju City expects Hoecheon’s fourth landfill zone to reach full capacity by 2015. Currently, the city is accepting applications from villages for selection as the next landfill site. So far, Gyorae is the only village to have applied.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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