The South Korean Ministry of Environment said Monday that it persuaded the 37 waste removal companies to renew their service to collect plastic wastes and bottles. The ministry also promised to make an early payment of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) subsidies and open new import markets for waste resources such as in South East Asia. While the ministry has stopped the prolongation of waste chaos, it is a make-shift measure at best. China continues to refuse to import wastes from South Korea, and private incinerators have raised up the incineration prices, further cutting back on the profits of pickup service providers. Without a solid solution, the recycling companies could refuse to collect wastes that are costly to remove and process anytime in the future.
The fundamental solution will consist in changing our current lifestyle inundated with plastic wastes and Styrofoam. In the early-and mid-1990s, environment protection campaigns were kicked off nationwide. In addition to the Green Scout Campaign by The Dong-A Ilbo, the major newspaper companies and activist groups made a concerted effort to sever the vicious circle of mass production, mass consumption, and mass discharge of disposable products. In 1995, the South Korean government introduced a volume-rate garbage disposal system nationwide as the first country to do so. Despite the opposition in the early phase, the system has been established firmly enough to be cited as one of the best practices in the world.
The myth that recycling is free of costs and every garbage can be recycled back into clean resources led to a profligate use and removal of Styrofoam containers and plastic wastes and bottles by houses and business establishments. The number of plastic bags used in South Korea jumped from 12.5 billion in 2003 to 21.6 billion in 2015. From production and purchase to discharge, disposable products should be subjected to additional charges. Such a measure could be perceived as nuisance and could provoke oppositions, but it takes a new form of eco-friendly campaign to shift the frame of our lifestyle.