November 4, 2018

Sustainable Consciousness on Waste Management, Korea versus Canada: a CATA Op-Ed with Cindy Gordon, CEO, SalesChoice

Sustainable Consciousness on Waste Management, Korea versus Canada
Having recently visited South Korea, with a population of 51 million, I was struck by their high levels of Sustainable Consciousness on Waste Management.

Yes, waste is a global problem, especially developing nations searching to find the right solutions.

The first thing you notice coming from North America is there are no garbage containers on the streets, unless you are in a store, restaurant or hotel. Clearly South Korea is no place for Oscar from Sesame Street, and there are not any convenient spots to easily hide.

But what you can see how clean the streets are, as garbage human sweepers descend in a tribe walking like an army parallel across large intersections, sweeping any garbage, leaves or debris to maintain cleanliness and better air quality, early morning experiences before 6 am.

Key Facts

Korea has the biggest rate of per capita garbage production in the world (2.3 kg/person) with the city of Seoul, alone, generating over 40,000 tons of waste per day, including nearly 10,000 tons of domestic waste per day with each person contributing 1 kilo daily.

Putting this in context in the 1980s, Seoul was generating nearly 30,000 tons of waste daily, clearly the by-product of a rapidly industrializing city.

In contrast, waste in Ontario has a waste problem; every year, Ontario produces nearly one tonne of waste per person and three-quarters of this ends up in landfills. Ontario only recycles 15 percent of our waste and sends over 6.7 million tons to landfill sites each year. That’s 2.2 million tones more waste sent to landfill than residents are responsible for.

Clearly, we have a major waste problem, not just in Ontario, but in Canada at large, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Canada ranks in last place out of 17 countries and gets a “D” grade on the municipal waste generation report card:

  • Canada produced 777 kg per capita of municipal waste in 2008, double the best performer, Japan
  • Canada’s municipal waste generated per capita has been steadily increasing since 1990

So, what can we learn from Seoul?

In 1978, Nanjido, an island on a branch of the Han River of Seoul, was chosen as the Seoul’s official dump site. The waste dumped at Nanjido a landfill occupying 2.7 million square metres for 15 years turned out to create a mountainous garbage stack, rising a staggering 98 metres akin to Sri Lanka’s Meethotamulla. The Nanjido site was so hazardous there had been several fires and the overall danger and resultant pollution forced its closure.

At the rate Ontario is growing waste in land sites, we are one of the worst waste sustainable countries in the world.

In the early 1990s  Seoul’s administration came up with a master plan for pollution control and landfill recovery project leading to the Nanjido Landfill Improvement Plan. A permanent solution was also warranted as Seoul was to host the 2002 Soccer World Cup.

Seoul’s Plan 

  1. Gas treatment to collect and dispose of the poisonous gases
  2. leachate treatment to erect leachate vertical barriers and purify the contained water
  3. slop stabilization to manage the environment around the landfill
  4. a top soil covering to protect landfill, thereby creating an environment for grasses to flourish

Converting 200,000 tons of waste to energy is equivalent to providing 41,000 barrel of crude oil energy 13,000 ton of greenhouse gases and planting 47 million trees according to South Korean officials.

Through well planned policies and targeted initiatives, Seoul has reduced the amount of buried waste by 94% over the past two decades and recycling has doubled.

 Recommendations for waste management leaders

  • Visit South Korea to speak their Waste Management Experts and evolve a more comprehensive Waste Management policy framework, that all businesses and citizens must comply with.
  • Benchmark our Waste Management Sustainable Practices that track specific waste management methods that are leading practices.
  • Engage in knowledge transfer bringing the experts from other countries that have learned first-hand to crack the problem, with more government exchange programs
  • Conduct an AI Waste Management Smart program and evolve a algorithm that analyzes all the global literature reviews carried out of the health impacts of incineration, landfill, composting, land-spreading sewage sludge and sewage discharges to find the best practices.

Today in Canada we are behaving like locusts, and are severely impacting the quality of life for future generations, in terms of quality of air, increased health risks, inhabitable precious land and reserves.

The time is now to advocate for accelerated national systemic change(s) on waste management, as a platform for Smarter Communities.

Dr. Cindy Gordon, CEO and Founder, SalesChoice, is an AI Predictive Analytic Sales and Solutions Company, committed to Making Data Speak to See More and Win More. Dr. Cindy Gordon is a CATA Board Director, and an active leader advancing women in STEM. She is also a co-founder with CATA and IT World Canada, advancing the AI Directory to connect market leaders to advance AI. To contact her, she can be reached at