Event Summary: Plastic Waste Management Workshop

On 24 September 2019, the EU-Korea Climate Action Project Team together with Korea Zero Waste Movement Network held the Plastic Waste Management Workshop at Intercontinental COEX hotel in Seoul, Korea, with financial support of the European Union. Approximately 100 people gathered together to share issues and solutions of plastic waste problems in the EU and Korea.

Opening remarks were delivered by Dries Belet, the Political Secretary of the European Union Delegation to Korea, Uwe Weber, the Team Leader of the EU-Korea Climate Action Project, and June-woo Park, the co-representative of the Korea Zero Waste Movement Network. In his opening remark, Dries Belet said, “By 2050, our ocean will contain more plastics than fish, if we continue our lifestyle heavily relied on plastics. To solve the plastic problem, the EU adopted the European Strategy for Plastics In Jan 2018, as part of the EU transition towards the circular economy. Under this strategy, the EU aims to reinforce eco-design of plastic products to promote recycling and boost the recycled plastics market. We believe that by moving towards the true green growth and circular economy, we can generate new opportunity for innovation, increase the industrial competitiveness and create jobs.”

<Picture 1> Dries Belet, the Political Secretary of the European Union Delegation to Korea

In the next 90 minutes, Korean and European policy status and the measures to solve plastic waste problems were shared by the EU and Korean speakers, invited from various sectors including the central government of Korea, Korean and European companies, NGOs and academia. Chae-eun Lee from the Ministry of Environment presented on the Korean policy measures for reducing plastic wastes, and Chanhee Lee and Young-yull Kim from Seoul National University and BASF Korea respectively covered the applied technologies and strategies. Alain Nadeau from the European Investment Bank shared EIB’s investment activities for reducing plastic wastes, and Jack Hunter from European Environmental Bureau informed the high level of EU citizen’s awareness of the plastic issues and the companies’ response towards the EU’s plastic regulation. Jeongmin Lim from Samsung Electronics, YIl-ho Cho from CIECOTECH, and Won-jung Park from LUSH Korea shared companies’ best practice cases for reducing plastic waste in both the EU and Korea.

<Picture 2> Young-yull Kim, the Representative Director, BASF Korea

A discussion session was run in the next 50 minutes. Mi-hwa Kim, the chairperson of the Korea Zero Waste Movement Network said the plastic regulations should be strengthened in Korea as 80% of industrial plastic wastes are not regulated for recycling while the regulation targeted at reducing disposable wastes allows too many exceptions. Jack Hunter said the anti-plastic movement is widely spreading across the EU, and the European Commission plans to introduce a law to enforce companies to use recycled raw materials. 

<Picture 3> Mi-hwa Kim, the Chairperson of the Korea Zero Waste Movement Network

Key lesson learned is that companies as the plastic producers are playing the key role in reducing plastic waste and proper regulations are necessary to change the corporate and consumer behaviors towards reducing the plastic production and recycling the waste.

For the speech materials and the photos from the event, please visit us at https://www.climateaction-korea.eu/. Register on our website, become a member, learn from other members and share your ideas, and participate in our future events and activities!