SEOUL, Apr. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — Starting Monday, all malls, department stores, and shopping malls in South Korea have been banned from using disposable plastic bags.
Kim, a resident of Seoul’s Mapo District, was shopping for noodles and bananas at a nearby mall before being stopped by an employee when she went to pay for her purchases.
She was trying to put the bananas into a plastic bag, and the staff told her that plastic bags were not allowed in the store.
“Fruits like bananas can easily be squashed, so I need to put them in the plastic bag,” said Kim. “But they still allow the use of plastic bags for vegetables with dirt. What’s the point?”
Confusion spread throughout markets in the country as plastic bags were banned from use.
Things looked much calmer at malls, however, since plastic bags were banned in 2010 and stores typically provide re-usable garbage bags and paper boxes instead.
The source of the problem was whether mini plastic bags placed in various locations of the store to put fresh food products, such as fruit and vegetables, can still be used.
Now, regulations stipulate that mini plastic bags can be only used for products that contain liquid and could leak, including tofu, seafood, meat, or vegetables with dirt.
The use of plastic bags to store food other than the ones listed above can be punished by up to 3 million won (US$2,600) in fines.
Customers, however, were confused by the differences in regulations among stores.
While some stores, for instance, banned the use of plastic bags to carry bananas, there were other vendors that allowed plastic bags based on the explanation provided by the Ministry of Environment that plastic bags can be used to carry ‘fruits that come in bulk’.
“We expect the new regulations to take some time to settle in,” said one expert.
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)