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We all recycle. But do we recycle properly? 2020-08-29 오후 6:34:00

Tic. Twist. Slurp. We think that recycling plastic waste ends when we toss the empty containers into the wastebasket. Out of sight, out of mind. We unwittingly believe that now, those plastic bottles and containers will all be recycled and turned anew - our work is done. But recycling most certainly doesn’t end there.

Recently, a popular Korean snack company, Binggrae, has garnered local and media attention for its new eco-friendly initiative located at a cafe in Seoul. The project - named ‘Pot Laundry’ or ‘단지 세탁소' in Korean, is notable for its distinctive household electrical appliance - a bright, banana yellow washing machine that resembles a refrigerator at first sight. At the cafe, people can be seen in a line, holding three empty banana milk containers (Binggrae’s signature drink), and inserting the containers one by one into the washing machine. When they close the porthole-shaped door, the washing machine comes to life, and starts pumping water into the container, which is held in place by circular rims at the top and bottom. After the container is cleaned vigorously, it is dropped through a hole in the washing machine, shiny and noticeably paler in hue than before.

Through this campaign, Binggrae is aiming to raise awareness about how to recycle properly, a representative says. According to the results of an OECD survey taken in 2013, Korea’s recycling rate was 59%, second only to Germany, which rated at 65%. Behind this shockingly high percentage hides an unpleasant truth; approximately 96.4% of all plastic waste was deemed ‘non-recyclable’ by the KRPC as of 2015. These non-recyclable waste products are sent to the incinerator or the landfills. So why is this happening?

Binggrae and multiple environmental organizations in Korea have stated that this phenomenon is due to the insufficiency of the cleaning of waste products and classification by material. For example, if a food container’s inner surface is coated in a residual layer of food waste, the container cannot be recycled; the same goes for vinyl wrappers or lids on the outside. Both the food waste and the vinyl wrapper are barriers to successful recycling. Because these substances are not plastic, they contaminate the plastic once the supply is recycled. The contaminated plastic cannot be repurposed into making new products. In order to be upcycled successfully, containers have to be thoroughly rinsed, cleansed and meticulously stripped of any external coverings or labels of different substances.

We don’t have to go to Binggrae’s custom washing machine cafe in order to support this wave of change for the environment. We can start cleaning waste from our homes, and ensure that any waste going into the bin is clean as the day they were first made. Or we can go on Instagram and join in the #단지손세탁챌린지, Binggrae’s hashtag for their ‘Pot Laundry’ initiative and raise advocacy for proper recycling. It’s very easy to participate in the challenge - just hold up a freshly washed banana milk container to the camera and take a photo - make sure that your palm is clearly visible, and don’t forget to attach the hashtag to your post. Once the posts are uploaded onto the campaign’s official instagram page or individual instagram accounts, Binggrae sends its participants eco-friendly prizes as a reward.

Grass-roots climate crisis campaigns like #단지손세탁챌린지 can come together to create a big change. Young people must lead by advertising these on Instagram, and take part in such advocacy movements to raise awareness. The general consensus is that anybody who has common sense is aware of the climate crisis, but some fail to acknowledge even its existence. Even those who have seen wildfires ravage Australia do not take further action; many strongly believe that oil and gas corporations must take on the sole responsibility of solving the climate crisis because they are the main producers of waste, pollution and greenhouse gas. However, that does not relieve us of our responsibility to save our environment from further destruction.

August 22nd was Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity’s annual demand for natural resources exceeds the amount that Earth can provide. This is proof that raising awareness, although it brings us one step closer to solving the climate crisis, is not enough. We all must advocate, raise awareness, and most importantly, be mindful of our waste. We should rinse plastic containers and separate waste before we send them to be recycled. Additionally, we should turn off lights when we aren’t using them, take shorter showers, and maybe start a conservation club at school or start social media campaigns for climate change ourselves.

We can’t rely on the government or large companies to be the drivers of change. We young people must take matters into our own hands by being more aware and making an effort to change. Let us all take an environmentally-minded step forward by promoting proper recycling to others, and practicing it in our own homes.

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Deerfield Academy
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