No Disposable Plastic Bags Declared!,
December 14th, 2011
S. Korea's major superstores declared a "No Disposable Plastic Bags" policy, resulting in zero disposable plastic bags from these stores as well as a 55 percent increase in the number of customers using reusable tote bags, which equals a CO2 reduction of 6,865 tons and a cost savings of 10 million US dollars.
Beginning in October, 2010, five large supermarket chains-E-Mart, Lotte Mart, Home Plus, Hanaro Mart, and Mega Mart-ceased their use of disposable plastic bags as a result of an agreement, Stores with No Disposable Plastic Bags, with the Ministry of Environment. Now 358 locations all over the country have participated and ceased selling disposable bags. While these stores used approximately 150 million disposable bags every year for the past decade, consumers' awareness about plastic bags has increased.
According to the report by Korea Zero Waste Movement Network (KZWMN), 55.1 percent of customers now use their own bags or boxes, while others use government-issued bags offered by cashiers. In 2011, KZWMN carried out market research by observation from Aug. 29 to Sept. 19 at 66 participating stores to understand the consumers' behavioral changes following the adoption of this new policy. They learned that 2,192 (55.1 percent) of 3,981 subjects brought their own tote bags, used cardboard boxes, or moved groceries from the carts to their cars directly or into bags in their cars. Consumer behavior has been changed in environmentally friendly ways. Judging from the number of tote bag and cardboard box users (34 percent) surveyed in early 2011 by the marketing departments of three companies at 81 locations (E-Mart, Lotte Mart, and Home Plus), the ban policy seems to be working well. The rate of reusable or recyclable cardboard box users is 22.1 percent. Another effect of the policy is that the overall awareness of customers who use other supermarkets has also increased.
Saving Money and the Planet!
These superstores could save 7.5 million US dollars that would have been spent for purchasing 150 million disposable plastic bags for the same period of the campaign. This also contributes to saving the Earth by reducing 6,390 tons of CO2 since the declaration of No Disposable Plastic Bags.
The rate of paper bag use has been similarly decreased by 1.9 percent in 2010 (September and October) and 8.4 percent in 2011. It is estimated that 39.6 million paper bags were saved, which results in reducing 475.2 tons of CO2 and savings of 3.96 million US dollars for the past year. (Estimate under these given conditions: 350 locations, 3,000 consumers per location, and 360 business days per year.)
This program could not have succeeded without the companies' determination, the consumers' awareness, and the government's strategic approach. This is becoming one of the most successful stories of waste reduction policy.
More Stores Come Onboard!
Participation has not been limited to the superstores. Since February 2011, 827 locations of five Super Supermarkets (SSM) including Lotte Super, Home Plus Express, GS Supermarket, Kims Club, and Emart Everyday have decided to join in this policy.
This additional participation will result in a reduction of 66 million disposable plastic bags, estimated to reduce 2,831 tons of CO2 and save 3.3 billion Korean Won(3.3 million US dollars).
To make Korea cleaner and achieve zero disposable waste, various efforts must be ongoing: the Korean government's continuous efforts through publicity; strategic approaches and an incentive system by companies; and the voluntarily participation of Korean consumers.