Have you heard the recommendation of staff to use mug cups in cafés recently? Have you noticed the disappearance of straws in cafes? Or have you felt the number of people using tumblers is increasing? If you say “Yes” to these questions, then you have experienced that the plastic reduction campaign is well underway.
In South Korea, the Ministry of Environment and nine other related ministries submitted a ten- year plan for resources recirculation which aims to phase out single-use plastic cups and straws. The aim is to make usage of single-use plastics to zero in cafés and other public places by 2027. Following this, since May people have to use coffee shops’ mugs or bring individual cups to drink beverage in cafés. However, people who takeout their drink can be provided with plastic cups. With the new rule in effect, business owners will be subject to pay a fine up to two million won if they violate the order. Unlike the plastic cups, plastic straws have not been banned by law but companies are trying to reduce using straws voluntarily. This is because straws are one of the most difficult wastes to deal with; Straws are made up of six kinds of plastics thus making them hard to recycle. Moreover, straws are polluted with drinks and too light compared to volume, so waste disposal businesses do not prefer them. For these reasons, big coffee franchises have been introducing the drinking lid and paper straws recently.
After the enforcement of the new policy, the waste of plastics remarkably decreased. According to Starbucks Korea, plastic waste has declined by up to eighty percent after banning the plastic cups. Furthermore, the following chart shows a noticeable increase in the sales of tumblers and mugs which can replace single-use cups.
At first, citizens had failed to adapt to use multiuse cups and kept complaining to change mugs into plastic cups. Unlike before, people now stop complaining about using mugs. One coffee franchise staff stated, “Customers who reject mugs have reduced dramatically.” Meanwhile, plastic straws are still a controversy between people. Most people are supporting the purpose of protecting the environment but some disagree due to the inconvenience of drinking. According to Starbucks Korea, customers are writing posts like ‘Paper straws get mushy too fast and collapse easily’, and ‘Colorings easily detach from paper straws’.
While plastic use at cafes has decreased, the people who use tricks are increasing. Some business owners make wrong use with the fact that unmanned cafes can be registered as a vending machine business and bypass regulatory policy. Unmanned cafes are using disposable cups, and it has been increasing since the policy has been implemented. Furthermore, there are some customers who bring their own cups from home and put them on the table without ordering any drinks. By taking advantage of the policy's weakness, both employers and citizens are satiating their personal pleasures. Under such circumstances, it is important to increase public awareness of environmental preservation including business owners, store employees, and customers. A source in the industry said, "Since the new law has not taken effect long enough, the government should actively promote the policy and persuade people to participate."
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