CityNet Secretariat

Sarah Dayei Kim

Minimizing Food Waste : Zero Food Waste

Region : Seoul | Korea, South

Goal : Goal 12 | Goal 15

Author : CityNet Secretariat

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    Minimizing Food Waste : Zero Food Waste


    To establish a framework by which food waste can be minimized and environment sustainability can be reached

  • CITY



    Korea, South


    East Asia


    -Status: Being Implemented
    -Start: 2005
    -Completion: Ongoing


    Seoul Metropolitan Government


    - Solid Waste
    - Environment and Resilience


    Goal 12 :
    Responsible Consumption and Production
    Goal 15 :
    Life on Land


    This policy addresses SDGs by taking into account the following goals and associated targets. It contributes to ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns by establishing a sustainable framework by which food waste disposal can be minimized (Goal 12). Also, it contributes to promoting sustainable usage of ecosystems by reducing the amount and fee that results from ignorant food waste disposal (Goal 15).




  • AREA (km2)




  • SITE (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)


    Seoul, Korea, South



The regulations on food waste disposal are becoming stricter. To reduce inconveniences on citizens, Seoul is implementing the Zero Food Waste, Seoul 2018 policy to minimize food waste generated and to turn it into resources.

Measures against Food Waste Problem Urgently Needed
Korea has been putting efforts to reduce waste such as food waste after joining the London Convention in December 1992, an international convention conmitted to preventing marine pollution by waste dumping of wastes into the sea.  

Stronger Food Waste Regulation
In 2005, direct landfilling of food waste was banned and separate disposal of recyclables was implemented on a national scale. As food waste water was banned to be released into the sea starting January 2013, a few food waste disposal companies refused to treat the waste, causing much inconveniences on citizens. This was because of hike in disposal cost since the food waste water now had to be treated on land. Since both the citizens - the producers of waste - and the local governments pay for waste disposal cost, the food waste problem is, after all, a social issue.  

Enormous Food Waste Disposal Cost
As of 2013, 3,070 tons of food waste is generated every day in Seoul, which is 0.03kg per day per person. Of it, 1,920 tons of food waste produced from the household category (single-family houses, multiunit buildings, and small-size restaurants) takes up 62.5%. Also, every day, 1,149 tons of food waste is generated from large waste-producing business sites such as food-serving places like big-size restaurants and hotels, and agricultural & fish markets. Of this, about 700 tons of garbage is utilized without changing its original form because of good condition.

In Seoul, the waste disposal cost is shared by most of administrative districts and citizens. It costs on average KRW 110,000-120,000 to treat 1 ton of food waste. If collection and transportation cost of about KRW 50,000 is added, a total of KRW 170,000 is required to collect, transport, and treat 1 ton of food waste. As of 1st quarter of 2013, residents only pay more or less 30% of the total disposal cost, equivalent to collection and transportation cost, even though they are the very producers of the waste. This means that the remaining 70% is covered by administrative districts. However, some districts in poor financial condition are burdened by the average annual cost of KRW 4-5 billion for food waste management.

If the food waste generated every year in Seoul is reduced by as little as 20%, KRW 20-30 billion of management cost can be saved annually, which is enough to build 30 public daycare centers.

Food Waste Bin in Seoul


Urgent need to solve miscellaneous problems as a result of ignorant disposal of food waste
According to the 2018 meeting held by Korea Food Waste and Environmental Research Institute,  the organization will promote the use of refrigerator management cards and commodity purchase cards, and it is planning to promote food waste by removing moisture. In addition, it is also planning to perform related activities to the public twice or four times a month.

The objectivees are to minimize food waste with the implementation of food waste disposal system, establish a system to carry out a stable disposal of food waste water.


Seoul’s Efforts to Minimize Food Waste City-wide Implementation of Volume-based Food Waste Disposal System
In the past, a flat-rate food waste disposal system was applied to Seoul’s multi-unit buildings in which residents were able to dispose as much as food waste they wish once they pay a flat fee. A volume based system, on the other hand, was implemented on single-family houses, which comprised only 70% of entire Seoul. To reduce food waste even more, in 2010 the city government began thinking about implementing the volume-based system to all multi-unit buildings and single-family houses in Seoul to reduce food waste. Before implementing the volume-based system city-wide, Seoul carried out a pilot program with multi-unit buildings and single-family houses in some administrative districts for two years since 2011. After assessing the results from the pilot program and addressing related issues, Seoul enforced the system all city-wide. 18 districts implemented the ‘volume-based system per housing complex’ either by issuing a payment certificate or utilizing RFID to weigh the garbage on garbage trucks, and the other 7 districts adopted the ‘volume-based system per household in multi-unit buildings’ by utilizing special waste bags or RFID system.

Stable Disposal of Food Waste Water

2013 Reulsts of Treating Food Waste Water on Land

The bio-gas facility located in Incheon handles an average of 436 tons of waste water per day in nearby cities such as Seoul and cities in Gyeonggi province. The facility produces 35374Nm3 bio gas on a daily average and uses it as a dry heat source and its own boiler, and saves 4 billion won per year by using bio gas as an alternative fuel for LNG (Fossil Fuel).

Installing Food Waste Reducer
Citizens started to make effort to reduce food waste due to the implementation of volume-based food waste disposal system which was enforced city-wide since 2013. Against this backdrop, there was a rise in demand for devices that reduce the volume of food waste. The city government carried out a pilot program for using food waste reducers for 2 years from 2012 to support citizens’ effort to reduce food waste. Seoul supported 19 administrative districts for their operation of large-size reducers, and decided to give the district KRW 2.5 million per reducer, which is equivalent to 5-month rental fee. Seoul subsidized the districts with KRW 557 million for operating 231 large-size waste reducers from 2012 to 2013. Also, in 2014, Seoul also paid for the purchase of 20 large-size reducers for low-income families in multi-unit buildings in Guro-gu to use. After the 2-year pilot program, Seoul found the large-size reducers effective since they reduced 80% of food waste. Also, 83% of the residents surveyed said they were satisfied with the reducer.

Parallel to Seoul’s pilot program, administrative districts also carried out their own large-size reducer pilot programs. However, there was a problem that different types of large-size reducers with unequal performance levels were purchased by districts and supplied to multi-unit buildings. Being aware of this issue, Seoul formulated and recommended a quality standard guideline for food waste reducers in order to induce production and provision of reducers with reasonable quality. This guideline, which is applicable to large-size reducers with daily processing capacity of less than 100kg, is for administrative districts to use as a reference when purchasing and installing large-size reducers for multi-unit buildings.


Food Waste Shrinking Gradually
In the first half of 2017, the amount of food waste produced in Seoul decreased by 56,000 tons , which is a 10% decrease from the previous year. Considering that food waste disposal costs about 180,000 won per ton, it saved 10 billion won. The biggest factor in reducing food waste is the supply of 'radio-recognition household unit'. In the past, fruit peel and food waste were put together, but these days, vegetable and fruit peels are separated and removed before discarding food waste, and this leads to saving money and making food smell less.  According to Han Sung-hyun, the head of the food waste management team in Seoul, the fee for the disposal of food waste was the same for everyone; however, after the implementation of RFID, people now only have to pay for the amount of their disposals. By the end of 2017, the SMG installed more than 2,600 units of volume-rate garbage disposal machines.

Volume based food Waste Disposal System


A group of Ghana's Environment, Science and Techonology minsters visting Seoul Metropolitan government and hearing about landfills and waste resources
Seoul Metropolitan Government 

During his visit to Korea to participate in the talks on cooperation in the environment in Ghana and Korea, Environment, Science, and Technology Minister Kwabena Boatin visited the Seoul Metropolitan Area Management Corporation in Incheon in March 2018 and looked around landfill and waste resources facilities. At the 50MW landfill gas power plant and landfill, Boatang showed great interest in waste management and resource-building technology. The government of Ghana, which is suffering from a serious waste disposal problem, visited the country in order to come up with sustainable waste treatment measures. 

Central and local government officials from each country, including Panama, Uzbekistan and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, are looking for a new landfills in the metropolitan area. The plan is to benchmark a technology that will help 25 million people in the Seoul metropolitan area to handle discarded garbage and turn them into resources and energy.

The number of intellectual property rights currently held by the Seoul Metropolitan Land Management Corporation, which has succeeded in developing 217 internal technologies, amounts to 89 including 61 in Korea. It also includes 16 foreign patents such as the U.S., China, Vietnam and Colombia.

Major patents include gas extraction devices for landfill, wastewater organic materials, quality and phosphor removal devices for efficient disposal of leachate, bio gas manufacturing devices for utilizing gases from food waste water, and waste landfill location tracking system. The corporation has won four gold medals for the third year in a row, including five gold medals, five silver prizes and two bronze statues until 2017.

The economic and social effects of various technologies developed by the corporation are huge. Bio gas mixing system, which is the first technology in Korea, saves 11 billion won in fuel costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Devices that increase the production of methane gas and air pollution are also making between 100 million and 200 million won a year when disposing of food waste water. As of 2018, 3,500 people from 30 countries visited Korea to benchmark construction technology, leading to technology exports.


USD 0.53 million


Budget source can be provided by contacting focal point.



  • NAME

    Inseon Jeong




    Seoul Metropolitan Government









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