Leading waste prevention policies include constraints on disposables and over-packaged products, waste charging system, volume based garbage disposal system, volume based food waste disposal system, and reduction of business wastes. The specifics for each policy are as follows.

Green Growth and Resource Recycling Policy

Suppression of Disposables and Over-packaged Products

Background and Significance of the Policy Establishment

As the rapid growth of the national economy and increased living standards have let excessive convenience supplant the previous lifestyle of frugality and reuse, the use of disposables or ostentatiously over-packaged products has become common, causing waste of resources and generating unnecessary wastes to bring about negative impacts to the environment.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Environment started to act in 1994 to control the use of disposables and over-packaged products in accordance with Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources, and secured the legal basis for regulating disposable products through the amendment of the Act.
The Ministry has reflected the social and cultural changes by exempting biodegradable resin products from the regulation of disposable products,  abolishing the disposable cup deposit program and report reward system of disposable products on the account of insufficient legal basis, and permitting  the use of disposable paper cups and free paper bags to shoppers in order to ensure a reasonable regulatory enforcement, while encouraging the reduction of disposables and over-packaged products by providing incentives including the conclusion of voluntary agreement involving voluntary participation from businesses and citizens as members of the society based on social responsibility as well as launching campaigns comprising civic groups and public service advertisement.
As for packaging wastes, previous regulation on number of times of product packaging and the ratio of space in a package had their limits in reducing the packaging wastes that take up half of all residential wastes. So, through research and development of an eco-friendly packaging method that would improve the material and structure of packaging, resource recycling has been enhanced by reducing packaging materials used and adopting materials easier to recirculate.
Currently, restricted disposal products, regulations, and standards regulating packaging wastes are as follows.


Working to implement the policy for reducing the use of disposable products with interest groups including companies that use a large amount of disposable cups and plastic envelopes, the Ministry of Environment has reached an agreement, which is voluntary and not legally bound with continued dialogues geared to tuning and communication.
 The 2011 voluntary agreement with five mega stores designed to create 'Stores That Do without Disposable Plastic Bags' reduced a social cost of KRW 7.5 billion and 6,390 tons of CO2 tantamount to 150 million plastic shopping bags. Starting in 2012, 800 or so nationwide stores of five super supermarkets launched 'Stores That Do without Disposable Plastic Bags', thereby reducing 66 million disposable plastic shopping bags a year and achieving cost reduction of some KRW 3.3 billion and 2,831 tons of CO2.
Moreover, by entering a voluntary agreement in December 2012 on 'Reducing Disposable Plastic Shopping Bags' with two bakery franchises that were using a lot of disposable plastic bags, the Ministry eliminated the practice of providing products in plastic bags unnecessarily while encouraging continued awareness on doing away with disposable plastic bags.
Seven distributors that participated in the agreement in accordance with Farm Produce Green Packaging Safety Regulations, which includes reducing the  use of accessory packaging materials like paper bands and ribbons and complying with packaging standards, did not use paper bands for 685,443 (54.5%) out of a total of 1,258,567 fruit gift baskets for Chuseok holidays in 2012, and plan to expand the no-paper band practice to over 70% of all fruit gift baskets by 2015.
 Designed to develop a packaging method that would reduce packaging wastes that take up half of the total residential wastes and would facilitate their  reusability, a research project (May 2011 to March 2014) is underway. In 2012, a technology for flexible packaging and paper container packaging was developed and the related manual was created, while an experimental project in eco-friendly packaging that applies the manual has been implemented in partnership with retailers and civic groups.

Wastes Charging System

Background and Significance of the Policy Establishment

Waste Charging System is designed to control the generation of wastes and prevent waste of resources by charging the manufacturers or importers the cost for disposing of products, materials and containers that include poison or substances harmful to air or water quality in specific areas, or are difficult to reuse and have potential to create problems in waste management under the polluter pays principle.
Collected wastes charges are used to fund studies on waste reduction and reuse as well as development of related technology, supporting projects of installing wastes disposal facilities and reusing wastes, funding local governments for retrieving and reusing wastes, and purchasing and stocking up on reusable resources.
As waste problems emerged in the wake of the rapid industrialization through the 1980s, the polluter pays principle was adopted to dispose of wastes. In the 1980s, manufacturers of raw materials were only charged for the cost of disposing of waste plastics, but as the costs for treating various wastes increased, Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources was enacted in 1992, thereby providing legal specification of items for which the polluters must pay the cost. The initial items subject to waste charging included things like cosmetics containers, batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs that were difficult to reuse and likely to cause problems in wastes management. Later on,  plastics that were considered impossible to reuse and synthetic resin being used as the raw materials were also charged for the disposal cost.
As the items previously charged for the disposal cost were increasingly reused with the changes in the domestic and international environment due to technological advancement and rising oil prices, the items charged as of 2012 were reduced to six items: pesticide and poisonous substance containers, anti-freeze, chewing gum, disposable diaper, cigarettes, and plastics. As for plastics, the disposal cost is levied to the end product rather than the raw material itself, considering the varying reuse rates.


Since the launching of waste charging system, yearly 1.1 million tons of plastics were reused to prevent the import of raw materials that cost KRW 1 trillion, while the waste generation diminished with the increase of reusability, effectively saving yearly KRW 400 billion in wastes disposal and creating a matching effect of installing of incinerators or landfills.
In addition, due to the increased price competitiveness of recycled materials that are not charged for disposal cost, the recycling industry was vitalized and the burden sharing between the EPR operators and the payers of waste charges was improved.
Moreover, as a result of calculating reduced financial burden of businesses and employment inducement coefficient in the manufacturing sector from the exemption of about KRW 47.9 billion to the manufacturers that voluntarily implemented the agreement led to the creation of 1,269 jobs.
In 2011, an additional exemption of wastes charge of KRW 5,647 million was given to small-and-medium-sized companies that generate a yearly revenue of less than KRW 20 billion, while seven small-and-medium-sized startups were exempted from waste charges, which contributed to the improvement of business environment for small-and-medium-sized companies.

Improvement of Volume-based Waste Fee System

Background and Significance of the Policy Establishment

Due to the progress of urbanization and industrialization, the public awareness was raised and population was concentrated in cities, and the speed of waste generation increased rapidly as garbage disposal increased in line with the rising living standards. In an aim to reduce waste generation and encourage recycling of as many wastes as possible, Volume Based  Wastes Disposal System was launched in 1995, in accordance with  polluter pays principle, precautionary principle and economic incentives principle. Volume Based Wastes Disposal System applies to residential wastes and business wastes that are similar in properties to residential wastes that can be collected, transported, and disposed of with the same standards and methods as residential wastes.
In accordance with polluter pays principle, Volume-Rate Wastes Disposal System, by which one pays in proportion to the amount of residential wastes one generates, mandates local governments that are responsible for the disposal of residential wastes to charge the fees based on the type and quantity. And it is based on Article 14 of Wastes Control Act that stipulates the charging may be collected by selling volume-rate garbage bags or labels marking wastes, as specified in the ordinance of the local government.

Since its implementation in 1995, Volume Based Wastes Disposal System took its roots in the hearts and minds of the people, thus reinvigorating the recycling of residential wastes. With this, a daily generated amount of residential wastes per person decreased from 1.02kg in 2007 to 0.96kg in 2010 and residential wastes reuse ratio rose from 57.8% in 2007 to 60.5% in 2010, while burial rate drastically diminished from 23.6% in 2007 to 17.9% in 2010, thus extending the service life of landfills.
Moreover, much improvement has been made on the policy for Volume Based Wastes Disposal System that comprises changing of wastes collection method fitting regional conditions, the public campaign on the garbage pickup time and garbage placement procedures, and free pickup of reusable items. With raised public awareness on wastes reduction and in the wake of campaigns for not using disposable products, increasing the use of lasting type of shopping bags, using refillable products, and Anabada (like 3R), the amount of wastes generated has decreased while used items' barter and trade has grown active. Thanks to the active recycling, new growth is now witnessed in various middlemen of wastes encompassing technology of separating mixed wastes of colored glass bottles and colored PET bottles and the technology for processing wastes into intermediate raw materials for recycled products.   
After all, total economic benefits of KRW 20 trillion for fourteen years from 1995 through 2009 arose from the implementation of Volume Based Wastes Disposal System thanks to the saved costs of wastes disposal due to the decrease in residential wastes (to be buried or burned) as well as the economic value of the recycled products.

Introduction of Volume-based Food Waste Fee System

round and Significance of the Policy Establishment 

Past implementation of the policy has not been focused on 'Constraints on generation of food wastes' but on 'recycling and disposing of the discharged wastes', so the policy related to 'food wastes reduction' has remained restricted to transient education and publicity with intent to simple guidance.
With the increasing economic and social costs for disposing of food wastes which even adversely influence energy and climatic change, Korea is currently shifting its policy focus from ex post factor treatment onto prevention and control.
Accordingly, the government prepared 'Comprehensive Measure for Reducing Food Wastes' through joint efforts of relevant ministries in 2010, and has worked to ensure efficient implementation of food waste control policy through the discovery of feasible solutions matching stages and distribution sources and institutional improvement that could support them.
Currently, daily generated amount of food wastes is about 13,000 tons, gradually on the decrease since its peak in 2008. It appears that not only the continued government policy for reducing food wastes, but also changed food life due to the development of food service industry has worked to bring the decrease in the generated amount of food wastes.
Food wastes are created not only with leftovers from eating, but also from the process of production, transport, distribution, storage and cooking of food materials. The generation of wastes takes up about 57%, 30%, 9%, and 4% from distribution and cooking, leftovers, food materials discarded from storage and uneaten food respectively.
Food wastes are generated in largest amounts at homes and small eateries (70%), followed by big restaurants (16%), group food services (10%), and farm produce markets (4%).

Composition of Food Wastes

Most of food wastes are converted into resources such as fertilizers and compost, and additional treatment is required for the highly concentrated wastewater (food waste leachate) that is generated in the process since it causes water and soil pollution. Stench produced during the collection, transport and treatment process is one of the causes that harms residential environment.
As such, not just the impact that the treatment of food wastes has on the environment, but also the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission involved in the food making process including production, transport, distribution and cooking poses challenging questions.
Furthermore, the yearly value that the wasted food has as food resource amounts to KRW 20 trillion, while a yearly cost of KRW 800 billion is spent on disposing of food wastes.


As for the achievements of the implementation of customized measures for reducing food wastes, food wastes at the cafeteria of the Integrated Government Building have been reduced by about 40%, while military bases and five university cafeterias joining the pilot program have reduced food wastes by an impressive 48% and 36% respectively. This shows that with a little attention, food wastes can decrease drastically in a short period of time.
As a method for implementing generation control policy together with the measure for waste sources, a plan to implement Volume Based Wastes Disposal System that charges fees in proportion to the amount of food wastes generated by 2013 is underway. So far, food wastes have been collected free of charge or were charged for a certain amount of fee in 144 cities where food wastes are separately collected. After 2013, disposal cost is due to be charged in proportion to the amount of discharged food wastes in order to ensure continued reduction of food wastes through economic incentives.
As for the status of Volume Based Wastes Disposal System in January 2013, 126 out of 144 local governments were participating while 18 have yet to join it, and 6,318,000 out of total 8,550,000 are participating (participation rate of 88% among multi-unit housing residents).
As for the outcome of the experimental implementation of the project by local governments, RFID Volume Based System was gradually implemented starting in 2010 to expand to all regions in January 2012, while discharged food wastes are measured by weight and charged by differential rates. With this, in Gimcheon city, the amount of generated food wastes decreased impressively by 54% from 26.5 tons in 2010 to 12.3 tons in 2012, and a yearly reduction of KRW 200 million disposal cost contributes to saving local budget and improving city's image.
In addition, in the case of Busan, Jeonju, and Chuncheon that have been on the program for a while, beating the initial concern that the implementation of the system would bring with it a steep price hike, the fees either remain the same as before or have been even lowered for a smaller amount of discharged food wastes.

Diminution of Business Wastes

Background and Significance of the Policy Establishment

Reduction of Business Wastes is a program that is concerned with reducing environmental hazards by minimizing the amount of wastes disposed of through the control of their generation and expansion of recycling in order to encourage the voluntary efforts of a business to reduce harmful wastes.
Wastes reduction is based on the domestic policy of 3R applied in waste management, and was proven successful since the introduction of Volume-Rate Wastes Disposal System in 1994, as the amount of residential waste generation has stagnated. In contrast, business wastes continued to increase with the growing economy, and the need for an effective business wastes reduction program loomed large since 1995. Thus, with a view to their contribution to improvement, businesses that were considered to generate large amounts of wastes were designated for the reduction program and were encouraged to voluntarily make improvement on waste reduction, aiming to produce an industry-wide ripple effect.
To this end, waste reduction plan and records are kept to the unique conditions of individual businesses, while waste generation and recycling are encouraged with the help of technological development, process improvement, and the use of eco-friendly raw materials. Furthermore, Businesses with excellent records in wastes reduction are to be awarded with incentives including government citations, while those with poor records are provided with guidance for technical diagnosis and reduction techniques, all to help effective reduction.
After all, the significance of the program lies in upgrading the environmental competitiveness of business through the minimization of generated amounts of wastes and contributing to prevention of environmental pollution from wastes and reduction of waste management costs on a national level.
The waste reduction program, which was introduced with the amendment of Wastes Control Act in August 1995 and the implementation of the Guideline on Business Wastes Reduction, has helped to improve institutions involving a larger number of businesses through several amendments.


An analysis and evaluation of waste reduction records at 1,360 target businesses in 2010 shows that the generated amount per KRW of output was 52.4 ㎏/ton, marking a yearly average of 1% decline, or about 4% as compared to 2006. Viewed by the generated amount per KRW of revenue, there was a yearly decrease of some 7% through four recent years.

The economic benefits deriving from the implementation of Business Wastes Reduction Program in 2007 is calculated at about KRW 480 to 590 billion, which includes the production cost reduction, wastes disposal cost reduction, and environmental cost reduction.
The key for a successful wastes reduction program depends on the maximized participation from business operations that discharge wastes. Business Wastes Reduction Program relies on voluntary records management and currently has no regulation against a poor performance in wastes reduction while there are insufficient methods for motivating the excellent performance. Hence, the appropriate support is in urgent need to be produced through continued monitoring and a consensus among related parties.

Last modified : 2013-10-29 16:56

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