Korean govt to ban disposable cups, plates, cutlery from next year again

2021.11.18 11:43:16 | 2021.11.18 11:43:55

[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]이미지 확대

[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]

Coffee shops and fast-food restaurants that have been resorting to disposables in reaction to the spread of coronavirus will have to go back to reusables starting next year under the South Korean government’s new measure to curb mounting plastic waste in the country during the pandemic.

The Ministry of Environment has recently announced that it will revive a regulation issued in August 2018 that banned the use of disposables, such as plastic straws, cups and dishes by dine-in customers at cafes and fast food restaurants as of January 1, 2022.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, the government has eased the ban on disposables out of concern that the use of reusable cups and containers could increase transmission of the virus.

Restaurants and cafes have switched to single-use products for both takeaway and dine-in customers, resulting in a surge in plastic waste in the country. According to data from the environment ministry, the volume of plastic waste jumped 14.6 percent on year in 2020 and plastic vinyl waste 11 percent on year.

Under the reinstated rule set to take effect on Jan. 1, the country’s major coffee franchises including Starbucks Coffee, Hollys Coffee and Ediya Coffee are readying to ditch single-use cups and switch to reusable cups for dine-in customers.

The new measure comes after the country has turned to a “living with Covid-19” mode to restore normalcy in daily life.

Businesses that violate the ban will be hit with penalty. Stores of 333 square meters (3,584.4 square feet) or larger will be fined 500,000 won ($423) for first violation, 1 million won for second and 2 million won for third and subsequent violations. Those smaller than 33 square meters will face a penalty of 50,000-300,000 won as per number of offenses.

Health experts agree that the use of reusable supplies is safe but advised that businesses take responsibility for hygienic practices including thoroughly washing up and disinfecting reusable cups and plates after use.

By Song Min-geun and Lee Soo-min

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]