Along with the rapid growth of the national economy and increased living standards, the use of disposables and ostentatiously over-packaged products has become common, causing a waste of resources, generating unnecessary waste and bringing about a negative impact on 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 the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources, and currently focuses on legal regulations and voluntary agreements as it main policies to handle these issues.

Legal Regulations

The current legal regulations against disposable products require businesses that use large amounts of such products to restrict their use or prohibit giving them out to customers for free. As seen in <table 7-6>, regulation measures and targets are differentiated in consideration of the characteristics of the business type.

Regulations of Disposable Products 

As for the legal regulations for product packaging, the government puts restrictions on packaging methods (a space ratio in product packaging of 10-35%, or less than two times of packaging) to reduce unnecessary packaging materials, as well as on packaging materials by prohibiting the use of materials that are difficult to recycle, including PVC.

The ministry has reflected the social and cultural changes and development of technology related to recycling and packaging to adjust regulation targets and measures. In 2008, it exempted biodegradable resin products from the regulation on disposable products, abolished the disposable cup deposit program and report reward system on disposable products on account of an insufficient legal basis, and permitted the use of disposable paper cups and free paper bags for shoppers.

The ministry established the Guideline on the Restrictions of Use of Disposable Products in order to ensure that local governments could conduct systematic checks and inspections of target businesses, and implemented crackdowns on over-packaged products during traditional Korean holidays like Lunar New Year’s Day and Chuseok, and school admission and graduation seasons.

Voluntary Agreement

Coffee shops and fast-food franchises are representative businesses that use large amounts of disposable products, including disposable cups. In October 2002, Ministry of Environment reached a voluntary agreement with 13 major coffee shops and fast-food chains in an effort to reduce the use of disposable products. The major contents of the agreement include a reduction of the use of disposable products, intensified collection and reuse of inevitably used disposable cups, and offering incentives to people with reusable cups. In 2013, the agreement was renewed by adding some clauses that included the setting up of quantitative reduction targets, press releases on inspection results, and offering instant cash discounts to people with reusable cups.

In 2011, the Ministry concluded a voluntary agreement with five megastores to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags and promote the use of shopping baskets, encouraging them to use alternative materials such as shopping baskets and volume-based garbage bags and packing containers instead of disposable plastic bags. Moreover, by entering a voluntary agreement in 2012 with two bakery franchises that were using a lot of disposable plastic bags, the ministry has been making efforts to eliminate the practice of providing products in plastic bags unnecessarily, and to use paper bags instead of disposable plastic bags.

As for product packaging, the Ministry reached an agreement in 2011 with large-scale distributors and civic groups based on the Farm Produce Green Packaging Safety Regulations to reduce the use of accessory packaging materials such as paper bands and ribbons. In accordance with this agreement, about 40% of the paper bands were removed from fruit gift baskets for the Chuseok holiday in 2012. Following this move, in September 2013, the ministry expanded the scope of the targets of the agreement to include livestock and marine products, as well as agricultural products, increased the number of participating businesses and concluded the “Primary Food Eco-friendly Packaging Voluntary Agreement,” which strengthened the contents of the existing agreement, including the use of reusable packaging materials. Also, the ministry concluded an agreement with the cosmetics industry and is implementing a pilot project to reduce the packaging of cosmetics containers.

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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38

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