Hongcheon Energy Town produces sustainable livelihood for area residents
A small town in Korea's northern province of Gangwon-do is going GREEN. Residents convert waste into energy... and its sewage plant now generates enough electricity to power more than one-hundred households.
Oh Soo-young takes us to Hongcheon to witness the amazing transformation.
An hour and twenty minutes from Seoul... lies a quiet town along the Hongcheon River called Somaegokli. This lively community is Korea's first so-called "eco-friendly energy town," and it runs on green and self-sustaining sources of energy.
But before it was launched in 2015, the town was actually one of the worst places to live in the county because of the foul odor emanating from its waste and sewage treatment plants.
This plant was built more than a decade ago to process the animal excrement collected from the town and nearby districts.
"Now, the facility also converts animal manure and food waste into biogas, a renewable and clean source of energy for homes. It also reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from decomposing food and animal waste."
Twenty tons of food waste and 80 tons of animal excrement enter the digester chambers every day.
The clumps of waste are then fermented to produce methane, a component of biogas, which is purified and converted into city gas.
As promised, much of the pungent odor has been removed during the process.
But what's even better is that the villagers now have access to renewable and affordable city gas that costs 60 percent less than the regional average.
The villagers also benefit from other eco-friendly innovations. A newly built fertilizer plant takes the leftover sludge from the biogas facility and mixes it with sewage waste and sawdust.
This creates mounds of fertilizer for the locals to use on their farms -- and rest assured, they come completely sapped of odor.
This ensures that absolutely no waste actually goes to waste.
Based on the town's success, the Ministry of Environment is replicating the model in twelve other communities in the country.
International organizations are also taking an interest.
"The idea is to learn from the technical innovation and also the management practices and also the financial aspects that are happening in a town like Hongcheon, and see how this can be applied in developing country context."
Somaegokli residents no longer feel ashamed of their town.
The once onerous dung facilities... are now a source of pride and offer a sustainable livelihood for their community.