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Asia Minute: Plastic ban coming to South Korean convenience stores and coffee shops

Plastic bags in a grocery cart.
Fiona Goodall
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Getty Images

Starting a month from today, South Korea is banning plastic bags in convenience stores and supermarkets. It’s part of a series of moves aimed at cutting disposable trash.

There will soon be no more disposable paper cups in South Korean coffee shops.

Also, no paper plates, coffee stirrers nor swizzle sticks.

At convenience stores, disposable chopsticks will become a thing of the past, and so will those little plastic bags that people wrap around wet umbrellas to keep the rain off the floor.

Some small businesses are complaining that certain rules are inconsistent — while plastic bags will be illegal for convenience stores, restaurants can still use them.

Plastic straws are not allowed inside restaurants or bars, but they’re okay for takeout drinks.

Supporters of the new law say it will make a difference.

The convenience store chain GS25 says its more than 14,000 locations currently plow through an average total of 20 million disposable plastic bags every month.

All of the rules cutting down single-use products were intended to go into effect earlier but were delayed by the pandemic.

Two years ago, the government announced plans to cut plastic waste by 20% by 2025.

South Korea has a relatively high rate of plastic consumption, but according to the consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, the country also has a recycling rate of 68%.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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