Comprehensive measure of waste recycling

Comprehensive measure of waste recycling
Mun Sol Ju
Issue Date
Ministry of Environment, Korea Environment Institute
Series/Report No.
Korea Environmental Policy Bulletin : vol.16 issue1 2019(No.47)
1-19 p.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals include “Ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern” as one of its seventeen goals. The OECD has adopted the Kobe 3R Action Plan on resource productivity, sustainable resource use and management, and circular economy and recommended the introduction of sustainable materials management throughout product life-cycles. As such, the transition to a circular economy based on material cycle and sustainable production and consumption pattern has been a worldwide trend. Korea, with its high dependency on imported resources and limited lands for new landfill sites, is in urgent need to enhance resource efficiency and reduce the amount of landfill wastes through constructing a circular economy. In 2016, 84.8% of the total wastes generated in Korea were recycled while 6.2% were incinerated and 8.8% went to landfill sites. Although this demonstrates the overall shift in waste treatment from landfill to recycling, the recycle rate of domestic wastes was still low at 60% compared to 88.5% for industrial wastes, which suggests a need for improvement. As the amount of household wastes and industrial wastes keep increasing, effective policy measures are needed to reduce waste generation throughout product life-cycle and promote resource circulation. Against this background, the Korean government has enacted the 「Framework Act on Resource Circulation」 in 2016 and enforced it since January 2018. In accordance with the law, the Basic Plan on Resource Circulation (2018-2027) was established to set the mid-to-long term policy goals and strategies. The vision of the Plan is to build a circular economy through creating a virtuous resource cycle, and the key strategies include establishing a comprehensive system of resource cycle from production to consumption to management and recycling, reducing wastes generation, promoting recycling of high quality waste materials, and optimizing community-based waste management by participatory governance. In April 2018, a “waste crisis” happened across the Seoul Metropolitan area when waste collecting agents declined to collect waste plastics from residential districts such as apartment complexes in the regions. This incident forced the government to come up with solutions that can prevent similar crises from happening again. The Comprehensive Measure of Wastes Recycling sets a target to reduce the generation of plastic wastes by 50% and raise the plastics recycling rate to 70% by 2030. It also defines the role of the players including the government, local governments, manufacturers, and consumers in shifting the production and consumption patterns in a way to reduce household wastes including plastics. The Comprehensive Measure highlights the consideration of recyclability in product design and strengthened producer responsibility in the manufacturing and production stage. In the distribution and consumption stage, minimizing packaging, reducing the consumption, and introducing ban on disposable products in the public sector are set out as the measures. Raising public awareness of recycling and separate disposal practices and expanding waste treatment infrastructure for vulnerable regions are among the approaches included in the disposal stage. In the collection and separation stage, strengthened role of the government and supports for private waste collecting/ separating agents are suggested. Finally, in the recycling stage, measures to stabilize the recycling market, promote related research and development, improve the management of Solid Refused Fuel (SRF) products are presented.

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