Officials strike deal over capital area landfill use

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Officials strike deal over capital area landfill use

Officials from Seoul and the surrounding areas finally broke a long-held deadlock over how to deal with waste in the capital area, agreeing to extend the use of a landfill in Incheon for about 10 more years.

Environment Minister Yoon Seong-kyu, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, Incheon Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok and Gyeonggi Governor Nam Kyung-pil came to the arrangement on Sunday following a year of discussion on the issue.

The officials, part of a four-party consultative group, met at The K Hotel in Seoul. It was their eighth meeting.

In the agreement, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Ministry of Environment, which owned the landfill, ceded ownership to the Incheon Metropolitan Government as well as the right to collect charges for waste disposal. According to Yoo, the value of the land is estimated at 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion).

Incheon will also be able to collect about 120 billion won annually in waste disposal fees - a figure that will increase by 50 percent from next year.

The Seoul city government and the ministry bought the land from Incheon in 1992, and began operating the landfill. The Seoul government held a 71.3 percent share, while the ministry had a 28.7 percent stake.

The landfill, which consists of four sections, was supposed to shut down at the end of 2016, when it was projected to be full. However in 2001, when the country adopted the volume-based disposal system in which residents are charged based on the amount of refuse they throw out, the amount of waste decreased drastically. Of the four sections, only two have been used.

At first, the Seoul and Gyeonggi governments insisted on using the landfill until 2044, using the third and fourth sections - a proposal the Incheon government rejected, citing damage and inconvenience to nearby residents. The Environment Ministry subsequently formed a four-party consultative group in May 2014.

The three local governments agreed Sunday to operate the landfill until one-third of the third section was full, which is estimated to be in about another 10 years when taking into consideration last year’s waste volume.

Seoul and Gyeonggi are currently planning to set up alternative landfills independently, though the decision on whether to set up a shared landfill or separate landfills is still pending.

BY KANG CHAN-SOO, CHOI MO-RAN AND KANG KI-HEON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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