KOREA (SOUTH): Gov't aims to reduce plastic waste 50 % by 2030
The Ministry of Environment (MOE) announced at the Sejong Government Complex Thursday (10 May 2018) comprehensive countermeasures to more effectively tackle increasing plastic waste in the nation. The government plans to intervene in the production, distribution, collection and recycling process of products to reduce plastic waste.
“The comprehensive countermeasures focus on enhancing public management and stabilizing the recycling market. The government will be involved in the life cycle of the products, starting from production to the recycling process.” said Kim Eun-kyung, minister of the MOE. “To resolve the plastic waste crisis, society as a whole needs to change its ways of production, consumption, recycling and even the culture.” The government plans to reduce plastic waste generation by 50 % and drastically increase the recycling rate from the current 34 to 70 % by 2030. To make sure the countermeasures are effective and socially accepted, a government joint task force will be established which will be in charge of communication and will be holding consultative meetings with districts, company officials and civic groups to better reflect on the spot opinions. Firstly, the ministry plans to reduce products that are difficult to recycle.
By 2020, all colored plastic bottles production will be halted and will be exchanged with colorless bottles. One of the major problems for recycling companies has been removing color from the bottles. Company products will be evaluated on the use of color and compound plastics as well as glass bottles. If the products are unrecyclable or expensive to recycle, the companies will be burdened with the recycling costs. The ministry pointed out that white, green, and grey plastic bottles as well as blue glass and any specially processed glasses are difficult to recycle. However, there are some exceptions such as beer manufactures that uses colored bottles to maintain quality of their beer. Any products that are difficult to recycle and contain harmful components such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will be banned. Other plastic products that are difficult to recycle are also scheduled to be phased out.
The ministry urges companies to use colorless bottles and labels that are easily detachable by October. Any products that don't conform to the regulation will be revealed to the public. The government plans to crackdown on excessive packaging and provide stricter guidelines. Starting next year, it is also working to implement legal consequences for firms that fail to abide by the rules. Products that are excessively packaged will also be banned from markets and it plans to strengthen restrictions and grading standards on packaging. A new guideline for styrofoam packaging for electronic products will also be released in September. At the consumption level, the ministry aims to reduce the use of disposable cups and plastic bags by 35 % before 2022. Coffee franchises and fast food restaurants are cooperating with the ministry to reduce the use of deposable cups. They plan to give a ten percent discount, when using tumblers and giving free refills for using the store mug cups. Large markets and grocery stores will reduce the use of plastic bags and instead plans to provide paper boxes and reusable standard plastic garbage bags. At traditional markets baskets will be provided.
In the next month, the ministry plans to promote and handout guidebooks to better inform the public. The guidebooks contain information on the proper way to separate and handle recyclable wastes. The countermeasures come after the nation was hit with a plastic waste crisis. Early last month, China banned imports of 24 types of recyclables to take a tougher stance on pollution. The move significantly destabilized the nation's recycle market. Last year, Korea sold more than 196,000 tons of recycled waste in the international market, with 128,000, or two-thirds, heading to China, according to MOE. After the ban from Beijing early last month, forty eight private recycling firms announced they will no longer retrieve plastic and foam wastes, claiming them unprofitable. The crisis lasted close to two weeks until a compromise was made with the government.
Source: Daily “The Korea Times”, Seoul; 10 May 2018
(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)