No disposable utensils for funerals

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No disposable utensils for funerals

Starting yesterday, hospitals running funeral homes will be prohibited from using disposable items like wooden chopsticks or paper cups, part of the government’s attempt to save natural resources and protect the environment.

A law passed in August 2013 prohibits event operators from using disposable items, paper cups and plastic forks at wedding receptions, birthday parties or funeral homes where meals are provided to guests.

Contemporary Korean funerals are commonly held at hospitals, and friends and family members pay tribute at a memorial area where the coffin is placed. The bereaved family accepts their condolences. They then move to a reception area and eat some lunch or dinner that is provided by the family.

The food and drink is arranged by the hospital, which usually uses disposable plates, chopsticks and paper cups.

“About 300 guests are visiting our funeral home every day, and most of them come in the evening,” a manager of a local hospital’s funeral home said. “We can’t avoid using disposable items. Our trash is usually packed in three or four 100-liter bags per day.”

Although the new law is applied only to hospitals that cook meals themselves, some say the restrictions go too far.

“If we can’t use disposable items, it means we’ll have to wash dishes and we won’t be able to handle all of the dishes particularly in the evenings when guests flood in,” Kim Tae-gwan, a representative of the nationwide funeral industry association, said. “We will have to prepare lots of plates and bowls and expand the size of the kitchens.”

BY KANG CHAN-SU [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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