Food trash festers since change in regulation

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Food trash festers since change in regulation

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Food waste piles up at a dumping ground in Gwanak District in southern Seoul Sunday afternoon as food waste processing companies refuse to pick it up. Food waste management companies are battling with local district offices over renewing contracts with increased processing fees after they were banned from dumping wastewater into the ocean starting on Jan. 1. [YONHAP]


As negotiations over renewing contracts between Seoul local district offices and food waste management companies are expected to take longer than expected, concern over “waste chaos” has risen. Officials in charge of the resolving the issue have been accused of neglecting their duties.

Last week, media began reporting that areas in Seoul are having trouble controlling food trash as companies managing it continue to battle with district offices over renewing contracts.

In Yangcheong, western Seoul, for instance, the company currently wants to increase the fee to 127,000 won ($120) per ton of food waste from 74,000 won. While the negotiations have been delayed, food waste management companies haven’t removed food trash, causing a nauseating odor of rotting food in many residential areas and apartment complexes.

The companies claimed that a recent change in the regulation concerning disposal of food waste, which banned dumping wastewater produced from food waste into the ocean since Jan. 1, caused an additional cost as they have to provide facilities or make an additional contract with other companies that can handle wastewater.

In December 1993, Korea joined the London Convention that was established in 1972 to control sea pollution. This is the first year for Korea to comply with the convention in terms of food trash wastewater. Previously, Korea had banned dumping various types of industrial sludge into the ocean in accordance with the convention.

However, both the Seoul Metropolitan Government and its 25 local district offices put the issue off day after day, allowing the current problem to fester.

According to the Ministry of Environment, about an average of 1,800 tons of wastewater is produced from 3,347 tons of food waste that is produced every day in Seoul, but there are not enough facilities to handle that amount.

Currently, about 1,200 tons of wastewater can be managed from four public facilities in Seoul, including water recycling centers in Jungnang District, eastern Seoul, and Mapo District, western Seoul, and one in Incheon, but the remaining amount must be handled by private facilities.

The city government planned to build such facilities in northern Seoul’s Eunpyeong, Gangdong and Seongdong districts in eastern Seoul, and Gangseo, western Seoul, back in 2008 and 2010, but the process has been delayed for years as residents in those areas strongly oppose the plan. The four facilities are expected to be completed by 2018 but the completion of the project is in doubt as the city government has neither resolved conflicts with residents nor provided necessary funds for the facilities.

It cost a total of 62 billion won to build a wastewater management facility in Dongdaemun District, central Seoul. About 8 billion won of it was used to create a 15,000 square meter (161,459 square foot) public park to pacify local residents who opposed the facility.

“We can’t get involved in the fee negotiation between local district offices and food waste management companies because it is their business,” a spokesman for the city government said. “But we will try to participate in setting the appropriate price for the food waste management fee that some local governments are currently doing on their own.”


By Kwon Sang-soo, Yonhap [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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