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Disposable Plastic Bags - Suppress Use and Promote Recycling

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▷ The regulation to ban the use of plastic bags in large stores and supermarkets will be enforced, and bakeries will be prevented to provide free plastic bags.

▷ More items will be the subjects of expanded producer responsibility (five more items including the plastic bags used in laundry), and the rate of mandatory recycling will be increased to strengthen the producers’ responsibility for recycling.

The Ministry of Environment (Minister Kim Eunkyung) will pre-announce the amendment of the lower statute of the Act on the Promotion of the Saving and Recycling of Resources (hereafter ‘resources recycling act’) for 40 days from August 2nd. The amendment is to find a fundamental solution for the Korean recycling companies’ refusal of waste plastic. The bill will suppress the use of disposable plastic bags and add five types of plastic products in the list of subjects of extended producer responsibility (EPR).

This amendment is one of the following measures of the ‘comprehensive plan on the management of recyclable wastes’, which was jointly announced by every ministry related to the issue on May 10th.

The main changes made in the bill are as follows:

First, revise the related laws and regulations to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags, which are being used 414 units per capita annually.

As of 2010, the annual plastic bag use per capita in the EU is 198 (only 4 in Finland)

Ban the use of disposable plastic bags in large stores (large shopping malls, etc.) and supermarkets*, which are currently prohibiting the free providing of the bags.

* Supermarkets defined by the standard industrial classification: a store sells mainly food and beverages, and other daily goods within a certain scale of facility (165 m2 ~3,000 m2).

 - Large stores have already made a voluntary agreement with the Ministry of Environment in 2010 and have replaced plastic bags with recyclable garbage bags, paper boxes, and shopping baskets.

 - Supermarkets can also use recyclable garbage bags and other alternatives.

* Among 145 surveyed chain supermarkets, 80 percent of them did not provide plastic bags (the survey on the implementation of the voluntary agreement for the reduction of disposable products in 2017, Korea Zero Waste Movement Network).

- Including 2,000 large stores and 11,000 supermarkets, 13,000 stores in total are banning the use of disposable plastic bags.

Also, bakeries will be banned from providing of disposable plastic bags for free. Bakeries use many plastic bags*, and no regulations have prevented them from doing so thus far.

* Two large bakery franchises use 230 million plastic bags per year.

- After the amendment, 18,000 bakeries in Korea will have to sell disposable plastic bags at a price.

* The two major bakeries in Korea, Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours, made a voluntary agreement with the Ministry of Environment on July 2nd and started a phase-out of the use of disposable plastic bags.

Second, in order to secure recyclable plastic, five types of plastic bags, including the plastic bags used for laundries, bubble wraps, umbrella bags, and other special types of plastic bags, disposable plastic gloves and plastic wraps for food packaging, will be the item subjected to extended producer responsibility (EPR).

The cost of scrap plastic recycling is high, due to the large amount of alien substance. Therefore, contributions from the producers of vinyl goods should be used as compensation to the recycling companies to promote the recycling of scrap plastic.

- The producers of packing materials are subjected to pay the contributions, but other vinyl materials, including the plastic bags used in laundries were excluded, and it burdened recycling companies even more.

* Only 61 percent of recycled scrap vinyl (packaging materials, 199,500 tons) among 326,000 tons in total is the subject of the compensation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment conducted a survey on the cost for recycling vinyl and had discussions with the producers of vinyl products and recycling companies based on the findings from the survey. As a result, the contribution of vinyl product producers has increased by 6.2 percent, to 326 won per 1 kg, and the compensation for recycling companies has increased by 8.1 percent, to 293 won per 1 kg*.

* Agreed at the joint steering committee (vinyl product producers, recycling companies and the Ministry of Environment) on June 28th, 2018. Contribution: 307won/kg326won/kg(6.2%), compensation: 271 won/kg293won/kg(8.1%)

Also, the mandatory recycling rate of vinyl will be increased.

- The current rate of 66.6 percent will be increased to 90.0 percent by 2022 (a long-term recycling goal). Revision of the related notifications is in progress to start the increase from next year.

The compensation to recycling companies will be increased by 17.3 billion won this year through the aforementioned measures to reinforce vinyl producers’ responsibility for recycling, including the expansion of EPR items, the increase of recycling compensation, and the increase of the mandatory recycling rate of vinyl.

* Previous compensation for recycling companies: 55.3 billion won

The details of the amendment can be found on the website of the Ministry of Environment ( The ministry will gather the opinions of stakeholders and citizens during the pre-announcement period and reflect them on the amendment.

We can’t solve the waste problem through the prevention of plastic bag use and increasing responsibilities of vinyl producers only,” said Shin Sunkyung, Director General of Resource Circulation Bureau of the Ministry of environment. “We need every customer’s voluntary engagement and change of the mindset regarding this issue, such as reducing the use of deposable goods for the environment and future generations, despite a little inconvenience.”

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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38

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