The Keep Seoul Clean project is a campaign devoted to making Seoul’s small alleys clean. Under the campaign, residents, small business associations and local civic groups divide small alleys among themselves and voluntarily participate in cleaning. The goal of the project is reach out to as many otherwise hidden alleys as possible and make them shine. Citizens devoted to the cause have actively joined hands together with the Seoul government.
Cooperation from Citizens to Make Alleys Clean
Blind Spots that are Difficult to Clean
While a demand for clean streets is growing along with the rise of quality of life, the number of street cleaners of administrative districts is declining every year. Under the current system, large avenues and backside roads are cleaned by street cleaners 3 times a day from 6:00 to 15:00 during the week, whereas alleys are cleaned by public workers. This system excluded some places from being properly cleaned.
Because there is a limit to public street cleaners’ capacity, it became apparent that local residents had to take the initiative and partake in cleaning small alleys where public cleaning services cannot reach.
Limitation to One-time Cleaning Event
The existing Residents’ Autonomous Cleaning Groups were only active for special days such as Spring Cleaning Event or Clean Day. Also, residents still believed that cleaning is the public street cleaners’ job, not theirs. To change such perception, Seoul sought to employ a different strategy to motivate residents and civil groups to volunteer and make the autonomous cleaning system work consistently. It was against this backdrop that Seoul carried out Keep Seoul Clean project that encourages resident participation by giving incentive to the organization and the administrative district that recorded best performance in adopting streets of vulnerable area so that more residents will take interest in keeping the city clean.
Resident-Led Alley Cleaning Campaign
Adopt a Street
Under the project, traditional markets, businesses, schools, religious organizations, vocational groups, families “adopt” a street. A section on a street that needs a serious care - for reasons such as continuous illegal disposal of garbage - is designated to those groups to clean and manage autonomously.
Those cleaning sections are determined according to the proximity of the area to the location of the adopter’s homes or businesses to facilitate a more autonomous and efficient cleaning. The street adopters not only clean the street that used to be filled with illegally-dumped garage but also beautify the surroundings by, for example, cultivating flowers.
Administrative districts provide a certain number of waste bags and lend or provide cleaning tools to street adopter groups. Districts also collect the waste generated from cleaning the adopted streets and, if the street adopter wishes, provides a street sign that describes the name of the adopter, adopted section, and the cleaning activities in order to boost the adopter’s sense of pride and responsibility.
Efforts to Stop Illegal Garbage Dumping
The community leader and local resident cleaning groups of the neighborhood with serious illegal garbage dumping problem are joining forces together to address this problem by investigating the usual spots and holding neighborhood meetings with the residents in order to encourage residents’ participation. Furthermore, city officials and residents are applying neighborhood-specific solutions such as patrolling the area to prevent illegal dumping, and monitoring the area with a specially-designed map showing the usual spots.
Big Cleanup Day with Residents
In addition to the streets adopted and cleaned autonomously, residents participate in seasonal big cleanup days such as Spring Cleaning Day in order to keep the neighborhood clean. In March, the public fixtures on and around streets, as well as sidewalks and roads are cleaned with water by those who are in charge of these public properties. And building owners, business owners, and residents clean the area in front of their homes and businesses in addition to small alleys and open spaces in their neighborhood, flushing out all the dust and waste accumulated during the winter.
Between May and June, small alleys and places that are not properly cleaned regularly are cleaned before the Monsoon season in order to minimize waste accumulation due to floods. Before and after Lunar New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, residents of each dong clean their neighborhood together so that they can enjoy the holiday in a clean environment.
Between October and November when autumn leaves fall heavily at once, residents help public street cleaners collect fallen leaves. Also, when heavy snow hit the area during December and January, residents and business owners sweep the snow in front of their homes and businesses, as well as in the back alleys of their neighborhood.
Incentives to Best District (Organization) in Autonomous Neighborhood Cleaning
Evaluating and Giving Incentive to Districts
In order to boost interest and cooperation from administrative districts that are in charge of keeping the district clean, the city government selects and provides incentives to the best district in autonomous neighborhood cleaning after a comprehensive evaluation of various criteria such as street adoption rate and performance, big cleanup day operation, anti-illegal-garbage-dumping efforts, publicity effort to raise resident participation, and administrative support on those programs.
Contests and Awards
With the objective of keeping the small alleys inaccessible by public street cleaners clean and to induce volunteering from residents, Seoul holds idea contests on how to encourage more residents to participate in neighborhood cleaning. Also, in order to boost motivation, the city government awards civil organizations based on their cleaning performance on the streets they adopted, their activities to improve environment, and voluntariness and characteristics of their activities.
Voluntary Cleaning Project
The citizen engagement project, Keep Seoul Clean bore much fruits; as of the end of 2013, 47,600 individuals from 1,585 groups of residents, small business associations, and local organizations voluntarily participated in the project about 1 to 4 times a month. Active participation from 19 administrative districts also contributed to making cleaner Seoul. The districts formulated differentiated measures targeting each neighborhood, put all-out efforts in awareness campaign, and held neighborhood meetings to address illegal garbage dumping problem.
Despite such effort, many citizens still view cleaning unworthy of their time, making the voluntary initiative difficult to take root. To respond to the wrong perception, Seoul plans to develop various programs that enhance public interest in environment-improving activities and ultimately encourage residents and local organizations themselves to lead such activities.