No more shopping bags from supermarkets

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No more shopping bags from supermarkets

Large supermarkets are banned from giving or selling plastic shopping bags to customers starting today.

The Ministry of Environment announced Monday that it will completely prohibit grocery franchises and supermarkets over 165 square meters (1,776 square feet) from selling or giving away single-use plastic bags from New Year’s Day.

While it discouraged stores from providing plastic bags before, the ministry enforced a total ban through a revision to the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources in an effort to cut plastic waste.

Some 13,000 supermarkets are affected. If they offer disposable plastic bags, they risk fines of up to 3 million won ($2,690). The only kind of one-use bags stores can sell are the disposal bags accepted by district waste collectors. Stores will be encouraged to sell or offer paper and other non-plastic grocery bags instead.

Supermarkets can continue to offer customers small plastic bags for wrapping items like fish and meat.

The revision to the law also prohibits some 18,000 bakeries from handing out plastic bags free of charge.

The ministry said it will give a grace period of around three months to help stores adjust to the change and work with local government bodies to ensure that the regulations are followed.

Earlier this year, seven of Korea’s largest grocery and bakery franchises, including E-mart and Lotte Mart, signed voluntary agreements with the ministry to reduce disposable waste.

That initiative has produced notable results. Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours, for example, used 74 percent fewer plastic bags in November last year compared to the same period 2017, according to the ministry.

“It’s necessary to reduce use of disposable waste for the environment and future generations,” said a spokesman from the ministry. “We request the people’s active participation to promote a green consumer culture.”

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