One-third of landfills in Korea are found out to be facing imminent saturation. The Dong-A Ilbo analyzed the available period of 215 landfills and found that 65 of them (30.2%) including those in the Seoul metropolitan area, Gwangju, and Daejeon would be filled up within four years. Especially the one in Seo-gu, Incheon, that processes trash from the Seoul metropolitan area where half of the country’s population lives, will be filled up by August 2025. In this pace, the Seoul metropolitan area will have a garbage disposal crisis within four years.
The Ministry of Environment announced that it would recruit alternative landfills for the Seoul metropolitan area by July, but it is uncertain if it would be able to find a place. It should prepare a plan B for a case that it cannot find an alternative landfill. Seoul is the only region out of 17 cities and provinces where there is no landfill. The city of Seoul should show efforts by drastically reducing its garbage disposal as it buries its own garbage in other cities.
Landfills are a culprit of ground and water pollution and are hard to find in a small country. Incineration is an alternative, but Korea burns only 5.2% of the garbage whereas Japan incinerates more than 90% of its garbage. The number of garbage incineration plants remains the same for 10 years at some 180. It is because the public are concerned that incineration discharges toxic substances. The government should not blame civil complaints, but should increase the incineration rate by advancing the technology processing toxic substances and securing trust toward safety of incineration plants.
The best solution would be reducing garbage from the first place. Each citizen disposes more than one kilogram of garbage a day. The amount of disposal is steeply increasing due to the hike in the demand of online shopping and food delivery. The Ministry of Environment will announce ways to reduce garbage in all stages from production and distribution to recycling in September. The waste policy may cause inconvenience to people’s lives and add regulation on industries. The government should induce voluntary participation and cooperation of citizens with reasonable policy that pays heed to opinions of people and industries.