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2021 ban on paper cups as war on waste grows

Nov 23,2019
Starting in 2021, cafes and fast food restaurants will no longer be allowed to serve drinks in paper cups. They will be able to offer paper cups for takeout orders, but customers will be charged.

The plan was announced Friday by the Ministry of Environment as a part of its long-term initiative to reduce the use of disposable products by 35 percent or more by 2022.

Under the current rules, plastic and Styrofoam cups cannot be used inside the covered establishments, but paper cups are still allowed.

The ministry said that it is taking aim at paper because it turns out that these cups are not always environmentally friendly. Only 5 percent of paper cups can be easily recycled, as most of them are manufactured with a plastic lining.

Plastic utensils are also under fire. According to the new rules, they can be used, but the establishments will have to charge for them. Food containers will not face any restrictions, though the ministry will encourage the use of environmentally-friendly materials.

Plastic straws and coffee stirrers will be banned from 2022, as will small bottles of shampoo and hair rinse, toothbrushes and disposable razors at hotels with more than 50 rooms. All hotels will be covered from 2024.

Starting in 2021, all disposable cups and dishes will be banned at funeral homes that have their own dishwashing systems.

The government is also seeking to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Bakeries and smaller retail businesses will be prohibited from using plastic bags starting in 2022. Currently large retail outlets, such as department stores, shopping malls and supermarkets, are not allowed to offer plastic bags in most cases. Bakeries and neighborhood stores, including convenience stores, are allowed to give plastic bags to customers for a fee.

Under the new rules, only restaurants and pubs will be allowed to offer plastic bags to customers, though they will have to charge. But even restaurants and pubs will be included in the ban starting 2030.

Beginning next year, government offices and state-run companies will no longer distribute plastic coverings for wet umbrellas. These restrictions will be extended to major stores and venues starting 2022.

Starting in 2020, already packaged products can no longer be packaged together with other items to be sold as one.

The ministry said the cutback on plastic materials is an urgent matter. It cited the April 2018 garbage crisis, when China stopped accepting waste from other countries. Early this year, 1.2 million tons of waste was found stashed around Korea.

“Since this administration took office, we have been able to reduce the number of disposable cups used within coffee shops 75 percent and plastic bags at bakeries 84 percent,” said Lee Young-ki, head of the Environment Ministry’s resource circulation bureau.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]