Environment Ministry to revise recycled plastic usage rules

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Environment Ministry to revise recycled plastic usage rules

Participants in a meeting between the Ministry of the Environment and local business leaders discuss plastic recycling regulations at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Tuesday. [KCCI]

Participants in a meeting between the Ministry of the Environment and local business leaders discuss plastic recycling regulations at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Tuesday. [KCCI]

 
Plastic recycling is widely recognized as one of the most important steps to protect the environment, but a set of regulations still stand in the way in Korea as they strictly regulate how the recycled material can actually be used.
 
The Ministry of Environment said that it will revise the regulation to extend the range of uses, following a meeting with executives from major conglomerates including LG Chem, Lotte Chem, Posco and Hyundai Motor Tuesday.
 
They suggested in the meeting, hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry(KCCI), that recycled plastics be used as a raw material as well as a fuel, a usage currently permitted under the law.
 
“Plastic waste processed with pyrolysis oil can only be reused as fuel and not as a raw material,” said one of the executives in attendance in a statement released by the KCCI.
 
Vice Minister of Environment Hong Jeong-kee is quoted as saying that “[The Ministry] will revise the relevant article of the law in a way that extends the application of plastic waste that has been remolded.”
 
Another anonymous executive cited the difficulty of operating research facilities for plastic recycling technology.
 
“When we run a research center, we often have to expand the facility by bringing in new equipment. Whenever the new equipment comes in, we have to go through an inspection in accordance with the Chemicals Control Act,” the executive from a participating company is quoted as saying in the statement.
 
The process typically takes three months with the monitoring taking place three times a month, according to the representative.
 
The Vice Minister responded that the ministry will work on narrowing down the conditions under which a company should apply for the inspection.  
 
Despite the constraint, a growing number of Korean companies are investing in plastic recycling technology.
 
Earlier this year, SK Geo Centric joined forces with Brightmark, a San Francisco-based company specializing in pyrolysis, to cooperate in building a pyrolysis plant.
 
If constructed, around 200,000 tons of plastic waste will be turned to 1.08 million barrels of pyrolysis oil per year.
 
According to the Environment Ministry, Korea recycled 54 percent of its plastic in 2020.  
 
Still, Korea imports plastic scrap, since a large amount of collected plastics is not recyclable due to issues such as improper sorting.
 
In the follow-up discussion session, the industry executives asked for more incentives for companies investing in technologies aimed at reducing carbon footprint.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]
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