Processing system turns food waste into money

Korean authorities apply measures to classify and treat and recycle nearly 100% of food waste into fertilizer, animal feed and biogas, which is becoming a model.

Since South Korea banned the dumping of food waste in landfills in 2005, followed by a ban on dumping liquid by-products (called leachate) into the ocean in 2013, the country operates a composting program. comprehensively, recycling almost all discarded food into fertilizer, animal feed or biogas fuel like at Nanji Waste Treatment Center.


Every day, the plant processes about 130 tons of leachate from garbage collection companies around the area. The liquid is poured into a concrete tank. Over a period of 15 – 30 days, microorganisms will decompose leachate in a process called anaerobic digestion. The biogas this process produces is collected and sold to a local company for household heating in the area.

Leftover food is collected at the Nanji Waste Treatment Center in transparent yellow bags. This is a type of bag that Korea has prescribed for storing discarded food since 2013. By purchasing bags sold at convenience or grocery stores, people pay for the food they throw away. Funds from bag sales are collected by each district and used to partially offset the costs of transporting and disposing of leftover food.

The process of disposing of trash is very familiar to every Seoul resident, which is to absorb all the moisture and place the full trash bag in a blue personal bin on the sidewalk at dusk. In some apartment complexes, residents can skip the bag and dump food waste directly into an electronic trash can that automatically weighs and charges.

Then, at disposal facilities around the city, the trash in the bags is emptied and any foreign objects removed. The remainder will be compacted, dehydrated and processed into fertilizer or animal feed, while the liquid runoff is sent to a wastewater plant like Nanji. Under this process, Korea now recycles almost 100% of its food waste, up from 2.6% in 1996.

According to

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