|Takeout cups litter a shopping district in the Myeongdong area in the Jung-gu District, Seoul. Korea Times file|
By Ko Dong-hwan
The state cabinet council on June 2 passed a revised recycling law that will charge a new "deposit fee" to patrons buying takeout beverages in recyclable cups.
The revised Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources under the Ministry of Environment levies a fee that will be refunded when the cups are returned. The measure begins in June 2022.
The new deposit fee is not known, as the ministry will later determine it based on the cups' manufacturing cost and what would be required of future policies.
The new law comes amid rising use of recyclable takeout cups and an increase in recyclable waste being incinerated.
Coffee shops, bakeries and fast-food chain restaurants, where such use is most common in Korea, rose in number from 3,500 in 2008 to 30,549 in 2018. Likewise, the number of takeout cups rose from 420 million in 2007 to 2.5 billion in 2018.
But the number of cups collected and recycled deteriorated ― from 37 percent in 2009 to just 5 percent in 2018. Cups not recycled mostly end up on the streets and are incinerated with other waste.
The new fees are expected to see more recyclable takeout cups returned to sellers.
The environment ministry said Tuesday the move will boost recycling ― and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 66 percent ― and generate annual savings of 44.5 billion won ($36.5 million).
The ministry's latest revision also includes a management center that will oversee the deposit fees and financially support recyclable cup collecting businesses.
Lee Yong-ki, the ministry's Resource Recycling Division official, said people will be consulted nationwide before the fees are introduced because the move greatly affects their daily lives.
He said the ministry "has established a new social pedestal to process waste more safely."