Café: Disposable Free Zone1)
China announced that it would not accept disposable waste from other countries starting from last year. This has caused a plastic crisis all over the world including Korea. To handle the problem, the Ministry of Environment in Korea has started to take action to reduce the amount of disposable waste. For instance, the government has banned the use of plastic cups at food service businesses such as cafés when customers drink inside the establishment from last August 1. A business caught breaking the law will be fined 2,000,000 won. Because of the Law of Resources Recycling, many franchises have attached notices on their counters that read ‘According to the Law of Resources Recycling, usage of disposable cups is prohibited in the shop.’ To encourage use of reusable cups, some franchises have begun to offer discounts to customers who bring their own cups or bottles. According to a survey administered by the group What’s Next of Nielsen Korea, 94.8% of respondents showed an inclination to participate in the environmental campaign. Also, 81.5% voiced affirmative responses towards the expected effect. It seems that most customers are satisfied with the environmental action of the government and franchises, and the method of resolving the disposable waste problem.
Despite revision to the law and satisfaction among the public, one issue that needs exploring is whether café placed “enough” number of reusable cups. The size word “enough” is vague, and there’s no specific criteria concerning the size of the cafés, which can lead to conflict between business operators and officers in local governments. Moreover, the regulation only relates to plastic cups, which means paper cups are legal even though they are disposable. Some coffee shops offer paper cups during peak times when there are many customers because there are not enough number of cups. This loophole and ambiguity have been criticized, and there is suspicion whether the regulation will be effective. Concerning the problem about paper cups, Kim Mihwa, Secretary General at Korea Zero Waste Movement Network said, “With the increase in paper cup usage, more tropical regions will face devastation as trees will be needed; as a result, global warming and unusual weather patterns will continue to worsen on the earth. To realize true environment protection, usage of paper cups at cafés must also be regulated.” The government has taken a big step towards reducing disposable waste; however, there is still long way to go before cafés become disposable free zones. It is necessary to regulate usage of both plastic and paper products at food businesses and revise the regulation so that there is no loophole and the law actually contributes to making cafés free of disposables.
1) Chung Sehui, “[Inspection of Disposable Cups for One Week] ”I’ll Leave Soon” Tussles Here and There… Also ‘Paper Cup’ Cheating Has Appeared”, Herald Corporation, August 9, 2018