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10 Korean firms accused of 'ignoring' calls for proof of plastic waste reduction

Shoppers shop at a large supermarket in Seoul. Yonhap
Shoppers shop at a large supermarket in Seoul. Yonhap

By Ko Dong-hwan

Ten Korean manufacturers that agreed with the central government to reduce plastic waste two years ago have "ignored" environmental activists' recent call to release their status reports, raising suspicion of non-adherence.

The companies ―― which make pharmaceutical, food, beverage, brewery, cosmetic and hygiene products ― were among 19 Korean companies that made the country's most PET-based container merchandise. The companies signed the non-mandatory agreement with the Ministry of Environment in April 2018. It was not a legal obligation but rather proclamation of corporate social responsibility alongside the ongoing global efforts to reduce increasingly hazardous industrial waste.

The agreed terms were designed to raise efficiency in recycling, including changing colored PET containers to non-colored ones, changing poly vinyl chloride (PVC) to more easily recyclable materials, and using a unified material instead of diverse kinds.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) said the non-response came from Kwangdong, Lotte Confectionery, Nongshim, Amore Pacific, Hite Jinro, Oriental Brewery Company, Dong-A Pharmaceutical, Aekyung, Lotte Chilsung Beverage and Daesang. The activists said the companies "betrayed the public by not fulfilling the least they should do to reduce plastic waste (as agreed) in the voluntary agreement."

Other companies have shared their performance results with the activist group.

Binggrae, according to the group, produced more PET container merchandises and unified material-based products by 100 and 91 percent, respectively, while LG Household and Health Care replaced 557 tons of plastic materials with more easily recyclable ones by improving its 99 products. CJ Cheiljedang changed all its colored PET container products to transparent ones by the end of April and saved 111 tons of annual plastic waste as of 2019.

Overall, the companies that responded completed 90 percent or higher of the agreed terms on average, KFEM said.

Despite their efforts, only 49 percent of 1,294 products from the 19 companies that were particularly tricky to recycle were improved in accordance with the 2018 agreement, according to statistics from the environment ministry as of December 2019 that KFEM received.

KFEM called the figure "very low" and blamed the 10 unresponsive companies that "must not be faithfully fulfilling the agreed terms."

KFEM's claim came amid increasing concern about domestic plastic waste from supermarkets where many cases of excessive plastic use in repacking a bundle of shelved merchandise on special discount were found.

In June, the ministry introduced a law that bans such marketing tactics, with the law due to take effect on July 1. But after some news reports misunderstood the policy and said the government was banning sales of all bundled merchandise, the ministry delayed the introduction until next January.

The government said it had promoted the law poorly, which had confused many people and would act to "better substantiate the law in details."


Shoppers shop at a large supermarket in Seoul. Yonhap
Shoppers shop at a large supermarket in Seoul. Yonhap

By Ko Dong-hwan

Ten Korean manufacturers that agreed with the central government to reduce plastic waste two years ago have "ignored" environmental activists' recent call to release their status reports, raising suspicion of non-adherence.

The companies ―― which make pharmaceutical, food, beverage, brewery, cosmetic and hygiene products ― were among 19 Korean companies that made the country's most PET-based container merchandise. The companies signed the non-mandatory agreement with the Ministry of Environment in April 2018. It was not a legal obligation but rather proclamation of corporate social responsibility alongside the ongoing global efforts to reduce increasingly hazardous industrial waste.

The agreed terms were designed to raise efficiency in recycling, including changing colored PET containers to non-colored ones, changing poly vinyl chloride (PVC) to more easily recyclable materials, and using a unified material instead of diverse kinds.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) said the non-response came from Kwangdong, Lotte Confectionery, Nongshim, Amore Pacific, Hite Jinro, Oriental Brewery Company, Dong-A Pharmaceutical, Aekyung, Lotte Chilsung Beverage and Daesang. The activists said the companies "betrayed the public by not fulfilling the least they should do to reduce plastic waste (as agreed) in the voluntary agreement."

Other companies have shared their performance results with the activist group.

Binggrae, according to the group, produced more PET container merchandises and unified material-based products by 100 and 91 percent, respectively, while LG Household and Health Care replaced 557 tons of plastic materials with more easily recyclable ones by improving its 99 products. CJ Cheiljedang changed all its colored PET container products to transparent ones by the end of April and saved 111 tons of annual plastic waste as of 2019.

Overall, the companies that responded completed 90 percent or higher of the agreed terms on average, KFEM said.

Despite their efforts, only 49 percent of 1,294 products from the 19 companies that were particularly tricky to recycle were improved in accordance with the 2018 agreement, according to statistics from the environment ministry as of December 2019 that KFEM received.

KFEM called the figure "very low" and blamed the 10 unresponsive companies that "must not be faithfully fulfilling the agreed terms."

KFEM's claim came amid increasing concern about domestic plastic waste from supermarkets where many cases of excessive plastic use in repacking a bundle of shelved merchandise on special discount were found.

In June, the ministry introduced a law that bans such marketing tactics, with the law due to take effect on July 1. But after some news reports misunderstood the policy and said the government was banning sales of all bundled merchandise, the ministry delayed the introduction until next January.

The government said it had promoted the law poorly, which had confused many people and would act to "better substantiate the law in details."


Ko Dong-hwan aoshima11@koreatimes.co.kr

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