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Gov’t plan to cut waste would ban plastic cups

Sept 05,2018
The Ministry of Environment and 10 other ministries on Tuesday proposed a series of measures, including a ban on disposable cups and straws, aimed at reducing Korea’s waste by 20 percent by 2027.

According to a 10-year plan on sustainable waste and resource management that the 11 ministries submitted to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the measures will cut Korea’s waste from the current 95.5 tons per 1 billion won ($894,800) of gross domestic product to as little as 76.4 tons.

The submission follows the introduction of the Framework Act on Resource Circulation, a set of laws that promote sustainable development and proper waste disposal, in January.

Earlier in May, the Environment Ministry announced that it would halve plastic waste by 2030 and increase recycling rates by limiting the manufacture of hard-to-recycle materials, like colored plastic bottles.

Contrary to current government policies centered on recycling existing waste, the new plan aims to reduce waste throughout production, consumption, management and recycling. The government also wants to completely eliminate consumer use of disposable products.

The plan would ban disposable cups and plastic straws by 2027, which will require cafes and other retail stores to gradually replace disposable products with sustainable alternatives. The report also calls for restrictions on excessive packaging.

The government is also pushing to reduce food waste by making it mandatory for all apartment complexes over a certain size to install a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) waste bin. A RFID waste bin charges individual households for food waste disposal by measuring the amount of waste. The government plans to gradually require standalone houses and restaurants to use the RFID system.

Other plans include requiring waste collection companies to install GPS devices on their vehicles to prevent them from making illegal disposals as well as encouraging public institutions to purchase more eco-friendly products. Some 3,500 companies deemed to generate massive waste will be required to draw up their own mid to long-term plans to minimize their waste and face monitoring.

To raise recycling rates, the government will build recycling facilities for used electric car batteries and solar panels and require businesses to reuse recycled aggregate concrete from construction waste.

The government has aggressively introduced measures to address environmental sustainability as domestic waste generation continues growing at alarming rates. In 2016, Korea produced a total of 156 million tons in waste, a 30 percent rise over 2006, according to the Environment Ministry.

Starting in July, the government began fining cafes and restaurants that give customers beverages in disposable cups to drink inside the premises.

“In light of Korea’s reliance on imports for various resources and the difficulties involved in continuous creation of new waste management facilities, the strategy of sustainable development can resolve both environmental and economic problems,” said Shin Sun-kyung, head of the Environment Ministry’s Resources Circulation Bureau.


BY KIM EUN-JIN, YONHAP [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]