Seoul to add 300 won surcharge for single-use cups at cafes in 2025

Facilities that use large amounts of single-use plastics, such as funeral homes and sports facilities, will be transformed into zero-plastic hubs that use reusable cups and containers.

Lee Jung-joo

Lee Jung-joo

The Korea Herald


Head of the Seoul Metropolitan Government's Office of Climate and Environment Lee In-keun talks during a presentation on the city government's new Comprehensive Disposable Plastic Waste Reduction Plan, at Seoul City Hall on Thursday. PHOTO: YONHAP/THE KOREA HERALD

September 8, 2023

SEOUL – To reduce waste and increase rates of recycling, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will impose a 300 won surcharge for each single-use cup used at coffeehouses in the city, starting in 2025.

Seoul intends to introduce the disposable cup deposit system by drawing insights from programs currently operating in the city of Sejong and on Jeju Island. Both require customers to pay a 300 won deposit when buying a drink in a single-use cup, which the customer can get back by returning the used cup through an application run by the Container Deposit System Management Organization.

The city will also work with the Ministry of Environment to determine the optimal businesses to implement the system and to devise efficient operational procedures.

On Friday, the Seoul Metropolitan Government also introduced a pilot program where Seoul began to offer a 300 won discount on drinks ordered with personal cups at coffee shops. The discount provided by Seoul will be given on top of the discounts that coffee shops already have for drinks ordered using a personal cup. The program will be piloted in 100 coffee shops across Seoul until Nov. 30.

Besides coffeehouses, public facilities such as movie theaters and stadiums will also be required to use reusable cups. Coffee shops in large buildings that generate more than 300 kilograms of plastic waste per day will be encouraged to adopt reusable cups.

Facilities that use large amounts of single-use plastics, such as funeral homes and sports facilities, will be transformed into zero-plastic hubs that use reusable cups and containers. For example, once Seoul Medical Center Funeral Hall expanded the use of multiuse containers, their waste levels were reduced by 80 percent. Based on this data, Seoul plans to expand the use of multiuse containers to all large medical centers and funeral homes in Seoul from next year.

Parks by the Han River, popular outdoor picnic spots in the capital, will also prohibit visitors from bringing in disposable containers. Starting from parks near Jamsu Bridge this year to Ttukseom Hangang Park and Banpo Hangang Park next year, all Han River parks will be designated “Zero Plastic Zones.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government additionally plans to increase the number of sites that separate recycled waste near single-family houses and urban living areas where most recycled waste is mixed together. While there are a total of 13,000 separation sites in operation, Seoul plans to increase this number to 20,000 by 2026.

The city government will actively enforce recycling clear plastic bottles separately from their labels, in accordance with an environmental law that came into effect in December 2021. The city government is also looking into ways of allowing residents to exchange recyclable waste for general waste bags.

Currently, plastic waste generated daily in Seoul has increased from 896 tons in 2014 to 2,753 tons in 2021 — an increase of more than 200 percent. At this rate, experts expect daily plastic waste to continue to increase by up to 40 percent by 2026. Through the newly released comprehensive plan, the Seoul Metropolitan Government expects a 10 percent decrease in daily plastic waste from 2,753 tons to 2,478 tons by 2026, and an increase in the recycling rate from 69 percent to 79 percent.

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