Waste Management Policies in South Korea

South Korea was faced with a waste problem, particularly with respect of using plastics and recovered paper. In April 2018, nearly 50 recycling firms had stopped buying plastic waste in Seoul and the surrounding area, and the garbage started piling up at residential buildings.

The biggest concern at the time was the enormous amount of plastic waste. South Korea is the world’s largest per capita plastic buyer, a national survey reported in 2016. The South Korean Government’s goal is to halve plastic waste in the country by 2030.

The issue with paper recovered was not the amount but the cost. In South Korea, aged men and women receive a large part of the paper used; many are homeless. Because of the Chinese ban the price crash of recovered paper had serious consequences for those traders who rely on the capital. As a result, the Korean government prohibited firms from reducing the unit cost of used paper they were purchasing, the information said; now factories were buying more recovered paper from outside.

Waste Generation in South Korea

According to the National Waste Statistics Survey, which is conducted every five years by the Korean Ministry of Environment, the amount of residential waste produced per person has dropped from 1.3 kilograms per day in 1994. In 2012 residential waste production per household was 0.95 kilograms per day. About 51 million people live in South Korea, producing 48.990 tons a day. On the other side, industrial waste levels are on the rise. In particular, the amount of building waste generated on the back of the booming construction industry rose significantly between the late 1990s and the late 2000s, the ministry reported, but the pattern is slowing due to the industry’s downturn since 2011. Moreover, the volumes of general industrial waste are gradually rising due to the boom in industrial production.

Officially, more than 85 per cent of all waste is recycled by the South Korea, state media referred to a government report in 2017. On the other hand, the media have noted that illegal dumped waste can be found in the country’s rural areas. The Korean management of waste is rather effective despite that criticism.

Waste Management History

A move from the reactive waste disposal scheme to a constructive one took place in the 1990’s. When the ‘Recycling Promotion Act’ came into force in 1992, policies and programs aimed at promoting recycling were introduced, such when deterring the generation of wrapping materials, single-use product laws, waste deposit and waste fee schemes, recycling industries cultivation. In 1995, the ‘Volume-Rate Disposal System,’ which is a dissuasive waste generation system that applies the pay-as-you-throw principle, was implemented.’ This system, assessed as the representative market-incentive regulation in Korea, would represent a shift from the former system in which a fixed fee was charged irrespective of the volume of waste disposal to a system in which a proportionate fee was charged. As reported, it provides an incentive for reducing discharge volumes and increasing recycling.

In the 2000s, a framework was pursued for a resource-recirculation societal structure. According to this long term plan, waste was not merely regarded as a resource but was recycled. Korea is currently pursuing a “Zero Waste” policy, which aims to use waste as a resource source in addition to minimising waste generation, the publication’s authors stressed.

The “Resource Circulation Framework Act” (FARC) was decreed to form a basis for the implementation of these policies in 2016; it has been enforced by the Korean government since 2018. Korea faces severe environmental, economic and social challenges as a resource-poor and heavy energy-using society. The country aims to turn the mass-production-oriented and mass-waste generating economic system into a resource-circulating framework that is far more sustainable and productive at a fundamental level. The framework provisions can be divided into three categories, each of which provides a basis for resource circulation, encourages resource circulation, and supports recycling industries. With the FARC, the government expects to have economic, environmental, and social benefits by preventing pollution, but is also aware of the fact that the country is needed to manage waste effectively.

Seoul Waste Management

In South Korea, municipal waste disposal is broken down into landfill, recycling, composting, and incineration. Most municipal waste had historically been deposited in local or regional landfills, and very little waste was recycled.

Recyclable waste began to increase in 1991 because of compulsory separate collection, where household waste is separated into recyclable material, food waste and the rest. The proportion of waste to be incinerated and recycled continued to increase while landfill disposal in Korea continued to decline.

All food waste disposal currently in Seoul is charged based on the volume or weight, depending on the method chosen by each municipality among them. The standard bag system is one in which a discharger purchases a standard plastic bag for food waste disposal. The fees are collected by the cost of buying the bags, in proportion to the amount of food waste.

The chip or sticker device requires a discharger to purchase and connect a payment chip or sticker to a collection jar to pick up. The RFID system enables the information on a discharge to be checked via an electronic tag, and fees are charged according to the volume of waste.
Since the RFID system is the most appropriate option to target a volume-based fee system, this system is recommended by the Ministry of Environment.

Prohibitions on issue plastic products and packaging

The city plans to halve the amount of disposable plastic products used by 2022 on plastic waste, while increasing the recycling rate to 70%. Local environmental groups are leading several efforts to phase out plastic products as part of Seoul’s plastic-free policy initiatives, including plastic cups and straws, plastic bags, food delivery containers and disposable laundry coverings. The groups organise online and offline campaigns and encourage business participation by entering into a voluntary agreement, reaching out to different entities such as coffee shops, restaurants, wholesale businesses, search optimisation agencies, hotels, and movie theatres.