Deregulation of Disposable Products, What Will It Bring
Deregulation of Disposable Products, What Will It Bring
  • Reporter Yang Seo-Yeon
  • 승인 2023.12.05 20:33
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▲Paper cups on a restaurant’s table / The Korea Economic Daily
▲Paper cups on a restaurant’s table / The Korea Economic Daily

  The Ministry of Environment (MoE) said on Nov. 7 that it would withdraw the regulation on using disposable paper cups operated by food service businesses such as restaurants, cafes, and group catering centers. As a result, the guidance period for the prohibition order on plastic straws and plastic bags has been extended virtually indefinitely. The use of paper cups and plastic straws was given a one-year guidance period as one of the additional regulations on disposable products that took effect on Nov. 24 last year. However, the MoE announced a policy to withdraw existing regulations ahead of the expiration of the guidance period.
  Lim Sang Jun, the Vice Minister of the MoE said, “It is not the government’s responsibility to impose a heavy burden on small business owners and self-employed people suffering from difficult economic conditions such as high prices and high interest rates. We will focus on establishing (reducing disposable products) as a living culture rather than imposing fines.”
  The MoE believes that the use of plastic bags has reduced due to the active participation of consumers during the guidance period. Therefore, instead of imposing fines on convenience stores or markets that use plastic bags, they plan to recommend alternatives such as shopping bags, and biodegradable bags. They also announced that plastic straws will extend the guidance period indefinitely, and paper cups will be excluded from the restricted use items at all. In particular, he explained that the price of paper straws, a replacement product, was three times higher than plastic straws and that the price was high and consumer satisfaction was low, causing many difficulties for small business owners. He also said that the actual recycling rate of paper cups is only 13% and that he will improve the separation and discharge method in the store to increase recycling.
  Instead of withdrawing the ban on the use of paper cups, the MoE intends to focus on recommending and recycling multi-use cups. Stores that participate in reducing disposable products will be provided with necessary expenses for recycling such as multi-use cups and dishwashers. Capital Lim said, “The ban on paper cups has increased the burden of hiring additional personnel to clean multi-use cups or installing cleaning facilities in stores,” adding, “Korea is the only country that regulates paper cups.” 
  The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise (KFME) welcomed the government’s policy. They said, “It is a desirable decision to ease the burden on small business owners,” adding, “Small business owners also value environmental protection and sustainable development, but at this point, regulations on disposable products have no necessary foundation, which has caused difficulties for small business owners.” However, some stores are confused because they have already prepared for additional eco-friendly replacements ahead of the expiration of the guidance period, and some say they are anxious because they do not know when the policy will change again. In addition, companies that produce paper straws, which are plastic replacements, are very embarrassed by the government’s regulatory policy.
  Contrary to most small business owners, environmental groups are strongly protesting. They point out that as eco-friendly policies are a global trend, efforts should be made to increase their effectiveness, and it is an anachronistic criticism to abolish them altogether. The head of the National Council of the Green Consumers Network in Korea said, “We believe that small business owners should adopt a way to solve the difficulties in the field, not to shift the regulation on the use of disposable products to self-regulation as a way to solve the difficulties.”
  The government said that although they withdrew regulations on disposable products, they remain unchanged in its willingness to reduce disposable products for future environmental issues. However, it failed to suggest a plan on how to reduce disposable products and implement eco-friendly policies. In the global eco-friendly trend, it is time for the government to constantly think and make efforts about what policies to implement.