by Peng Qian
SEOUL, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- As Christmas is drawing near, Seoul' s largest second-hand mall "Recycle City" achieved new records high of sales volume.
Min Hye Kyung, a mother of a two-year old girl, was obsessed with these gleaming and colorful secondhand Christmas decorations appearing to be brand-new.
"I want to buy these Christmas garlands to decorate my living room. My daughter must like them. In this secondhand shop, we can re-use these products and benefit to the environment," said Min.
Seoul works to expand the culture of reuse and recycling among citizens by promoting secondhand markets and shops. The Recycle City is a typical recycling mall selling second-hand items such as furniture, household appliances, kitchenware, clothes, books and others. These recycling malls under the brand of "Recycle City" are very common among South Korea.
"South Korea is short of resources. Most of our resources rely on imports. Recycling can enhance our self-sufficiency in energy and then bring about more economic benefits. If we don't make use of waste, the incineration process will cost a lot of money and also pollute the air," Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
The Seoul recycling master plan is now leading the city to the best recycling city in the world. Seoul seeks to improve the source separation process with the goal of increasing the recycling rate from 43.5 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2013 and onward to 66 percent by 2030.
Launched in 1995 under authorization by Gangdong district in Seoul, the Recycle City mall can receive around 60 selling applications during busy season, 10-20 percent of which will finally deal.
"In winter, which is off season, we still can sell 30 to 40 goods every day. The daily turnover is 5 million won. By doing so we can transfer items from someone not in need to someone in need. It is really meaningful to save resources and help customers at the same time," said Lee Rongshuo, director of "Recycle city."
Just call and place an application with a Recycle City store and its staff will come to your location. They will buy the item you want to sell and carry it back with them to the mall. Prices depend on the quality of the items. It is the quickest and easiest way to sell goods because they will also handle the moving.
Seoul also holds large-scale second-hand markets in Gwanghwamun square and Ttukseom areas with different monthly and seasonal themes. Citizens bring reusable clothes, books and other items to sell to those who need and donate a portion of their sales. Ttulseom Secondhand market has been visited by 3.76 million people since it first opened in 2004. Some 7.38 million second-hand items have been sold and 7,000 ton domestic waste has been reduced.
South Korea is currently recycling 100 percent of all recyclable items including paper, glass bottles, cans, wastepaper and plastic. All products made in South Korea, if recyclable, have a special recycling mark identifying the type of material. Some cosmetics companies also encourage consumers to return used empty bottles and offer cosmetic samples or other small gifts as incentives.
"These kinds of incentives are especially welcomed by young people," said Han Nari, a government staff, adding that most of her friends have done so.
Seoul has instituted "pay-as-you-throw" policy since 1995. It charges both by the trash bag and by locations, with residents and businesses paying varying rates based on what the actual disposal costs are for a given district. Citizens must sort their wastes out in different recycle bins for papers, cans, glasses, plastic bags and food located in public places or apartments.
"We (housewives) are trying our best to reduce water contained in food wastes, as we have to pay according to the weight of the waste. Our community is much cleaner than before," said Moon Sang Boon, a local housewife.
Local government recently introduced the free service for collecting large waste appliances. Now everyone can make a reservation on the website or by phone to apply free waste appliances transportation.
The city has founded Ecocity Co. Ltd, a social enterprise to promote the recycling of electronic wastes. Recycling 3,000 tons of small electronics and 300,000 cell phones is a goal for this year alone.
Seoul is also exploring ways to recover and recycle more resources by enhancing incineration capability of four resource recovery facilities inside the city. In Mapo district of Seoul, the country's biggest recovery facility kills three birds with one stone: treat domestic waste, provide welfare for residents and produce clean energy.
In Mapo resource recovery plant, the waste is combusted at a very high temperature and the heat produced during this process is used to generate electric power. The remaining highly-compressed steam is cooled down to around 120 centigrade and provides district heating for neighborhoods. The plant can deal with 200, 000 ton of waste and produce 520,000 Gcal renewable energy per year.
Through the process of waste input, incineration, waste heat boiler operation, heat deliver and pollutant removal, the pollutants released from the resource recovery facilities are controlled at a much lower level than legally allowed.
"This plant has the No. 1 ability in the world to remove air pollutants produced by the waste incineration. The smoke concentration is only one tenth of the international standard. The ashes left can also be made into bricks for construction," said Yun Mun Kyung, deputy director of Seoul Resource recirculation division.
"Waste can be valuable if recycled,"-- this is the green philosophy of Seoul, which is promoted by local government and carried out by its citizens.