On July 21, 2021, the Ministry of Environment of Korea (MOE) announced a legislative notice of partial amendment to the Presidential Decree on the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources, which expands the scope of items subject to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) System and invited public comments by August 30. The proposed amendment stipulates that business entities manufacturing 17 items, including pallets, industrial films, and polyvinyl chloride pipes, are obligated to collect and recycle the relevant items in quantities that are calculated and announced by MOE every year. The proposed amendment will first apply to four items including industrial films, agricultural films, 20 types of household goods, and replacement water purifier filters from fiscal year (FY) 2022, then to the remaining 13 items from FY2023.
Proposed Partial Amendment to the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources (Act No. 17847)
The items newly added to the list of products subject to mandatory recycling are as follows.
Pallets, safety nets, fishing nets, ropes, industrial films, agricultural films, polyethylene (PE) pipes, artificial turf, 20 types of household goods (e.g., sealed and storage containers for kitchens), plastic transport boxes, profiles, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, floor materials, insulation materials for construction, power and communication lines, replacement water purifier filters, and automobile maintenance parts.
With the addition of the above 17 items, the total number of items subject to the mandatory recycling under the Act will be 29 (the existing items include: four types of packaging materials (e.g., paper packs and glass bottles), and eight types of products excluding electrical and electronic products (e.g., fluorescent lamps and floats for aquaculture). The Act on Resource Circulation of Electrical and Electronic Equipment and Vehicles stipulates 50 products in five categories (heat exchangers, display equipment, solar panels, etc.) for mandatory recycling.
The products proposed to be added to the list have been managed under the Voluntary Agreement System for the Collection and Recycling of Plastic Waste. Under this System, manufacturers of target products establish and operate a robust collection and recycling system during the term of the Agreement. The Voluntary Agreement of Plastic Waste Collection and Recycling is a system under which manufacturers of plastic products subject to Waste Charge can receive reduction or exemption of the Waste Charge, if the manufacturers have executed a voluntary agreement with the Minister of Environment on waste collection and recycling and achieve the collection and recycling targets set in the agreement (since 2008).
For example, in the case of pallets, the Korea Pallet Container Association has concluded a voluntary agreement with the Minister of Environment at the end of every year as a representative organization to fulfill the obligation of collecting and recycling pallets. The Association has achieved outcomes beyond the targets stipulated in the agreement, in corporation with recycling companies. Based on this successful case, the proposed amendment has been prepared. The proposed amendment will first apply to four items, which are produced by industrial sectors that already have matured collection and recycling system, such as industrial films, agricultural films, 20 types of household goods, and replacement water purifier filters, from FY2022. Then, the amendment will apply to remaining 13 items from FY2023.
In addition to the above, on July 7, 2021, Hong Suk-joon, a member of the People Power Party (the main opposition party of South Korea), made a representative motion to partially amend the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources (Act No. 17847). This amendment aims improve the quality of solid fuel products and to increase the willing to accept solid fuel products among local residents living near facilities that use such products by allowing only certain grades of solid fuel products to be permitted for usage.
Solid fuel products are made from combustible wastes (e.g., waste vinyl, waste wood, etc.) that have value as resources and are mainly used in power generation facilities and industrial boilers. Although the Solid Fuel Product Quality Grading System has been introduced and operated since May 2020, the incentive for business entities using the best and excellent grade products is limited to an exemption from mandated quality verification inspection in the following quarter, which could be insufficient to encourage the manufacture and use of high-quality solid fuel products.
“Under the current law, there are no restrictions on the use of solid fuel products by quality grade, and as long as they meet the mandatory quality standards, they can be used in all facilities across the country. This has led to unrestricted use of solid fuel products in areas with high population density and those with severe air pollution, resulting in serious concerns among local residents,” Rep. Hong Suk-joon commented. He added, “The current law allows for authority bodies to add some conditions necessary for the benefit of local residents and the protection of the surrounding environment when permitting use of solid fuel products, but since it does not restrict areas where the products can be used by grade, there is a limit to ensuring the acceptability of residents.” On the other hand, since the Clean Air Conservation Act restricts the use of solid fuels such as coal and coke in densely populated areas and other areas where environmental considerations are necessary, the government has announced its policy of setting equivalent levels to ensuring fairness.
Notice of legislation
Press release by MOE: