Plastic in Korea: What you gonna do with all that junk?

Did you know that Seoul has a rising plastic crisis? Source: Shutterstock.

NOT keep it in your trunk, that’s for sure. South Korea’s Seoul Metropolitan Government has revealed plans to strengthen crackdowns on stores that hand out free plastic bags after purchase.

This is due to the country’s rising plastic crisis, which has taken over one-third of the capital Seoul’s recyclable waste.

“Based on statistics released in 2015, an average Korean took home 420 plastic bags a year, which was six times more than in Germany and 105 times higher than in Finland,” The Korea Times wrote.

After China halted imports of plastic waste due to domestic environmental issues in January, South Korea has been struggling to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Just last year alone, over 291,000 plastic bags used to cover wet umbrellas were distributed in buildings around the capital.

“More people have been using plastic bags due to convenience,” The Korea Times quoted a city official as saying.

“When buried underground, it takes a couple hundred years for plastic bags to decompose. We need people to start using shopping baskets to reduce plastic bag use.”

What they’re planning to do

Starting May 2018, plastic bag campaigns Rejecting Plastic Bags and Preparing Shopping Baskets will be held in traditional markets and events around the city.

Stores that are larger than 33 square meters, including pharmacies and convenience stores, will be inspected. If found offering plastic bags for free, business owners may face fines up to KRW300,000 (US$280).

Large businesses such as bookstores and department stores will be asked to limit imports of black plastic bags. They will need to request their customers to use paper bags or boxes.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government also has plans to crack down on the excessive packaging of products.

As for the issue with plastic bags to cover wet umbrellas, the city plans to install rainwater extractors/dryers in government buildings.

What it means for you

Tourists often flock to Seoul to shop, as it’s home to major shopping districts such as Namdaemun Market, Myeongdong, Sinsa-dong, and Dongdaemun, just to name a few.

From budget street fashion to high-end luxury brands, to a spoilt-for-choice amount of makeup and skincare, and even the odd trinket or collectible souvenir, it’s a shopper’s haven.

So how do you, a shopper, maneuver this plastic bag crackdown?

Be sure to arm yourself with a bigger bag or backpack before you head out for a grocery run or a shopping spree. Request for paper bags instead. If need be, fold up a spare tote and keep it with you for all your extra goodies.

And of course, just say no to plastic bags.

Source: Shutterstock.

South Korea’s plastic reduction campaign will be promoted through the subway, bus and electronic displays throughout the city.