Plastic bag saga continues as new rule goes unenforced
Customers are still asking for plastic bags despite a regulation that went into effect yesterday saying that they must not be made available by stores.
Which makes sense, as the regulation didn't actually go into effect yet.
"Many didn’t know that the ban starts from today,” said Kim Jin-hwan, running a convenience store in Yongsan District, central Seoul.
From Thursday, an existing rule for large stores was extended to convenience store, bakeries and small supermarkets. The news rule also extends to the use of plastic straws and paper cups at restaurants and coffee shops, though coffee shops can still serve takeout drinks in paper cups.
The catch is that the rule will not actually be enforced for a year, meaning there really is no rule in effect and plastic bags and other plastic items can still be made available at small retail establishments.
Business owners can be fined up to 3 million won ($2,260) once the rule is enforced.
The regulation is based Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources.
"I’ve been asking customers to either buy paper bags or standard plastic garbage bags because I don’t want to go through any possible inconvenience or have to re-explain the regulation all over again when the grace period ends,” said Kim.
“I still have some plastic bags that I ordered in bulk before, and I plan on giving them to customers when asked,” said a 32-year-old who runs a convenience store in Yongsan District. “And we’re still putting out plastic straws for the same reasons.”
Some are still giving out plastic bags, but will have to provide either paper bags or standard garbage bags in the future as convenience store companies such as GS25 prohibit their franchisees from ordering plastic bags.
7-Eleven stopped orders in September. But it allows franchisees to order them considering its plastic bags are biodegradable, which are allowed to be given out even under the broadened regulation.
“I was told to not give out paper cups to customers staying at the cafe, but I didn’t get any instructions regarding straws,” said a 23-year-old university student working at a cafe in Mapo District, western Seoul.
Gongcha, a boba tea brand, has been supplying paper straws to its franchises since last week. They are given to customers staying at the cafes.
Starting Nov. 15, GS25 has been selling ice cups with strawless lids so customers won’t have to use plastic straws. The new ice cups are only sold at branches in Seoul, Gyeonggi and North Chungcheong, but will be offered at all of its branches this year.
GS Retail, which runs the convenience store, said not all branches will have them immediately considering some will have to sell ice cups they had already ordered before the change.
Lotte Department Store hasn't been using single-use paper cups for drinks given to visitors to its VIP lounge since Nov. 1.
BY LEE TAE-HEE [email@example.com]