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South Korea's Garbage Crisis

A reporter of the US media company, CNN, reported that "Korea is the world's largest consumer of plastics per capita" as it introduced the problem of garbage piles in Uiseong County, Gyeongbuk.


CNN said on March 3, "Plastics consumption per capita in Korea is 132 kilograms in 2015, surpassing the US (93 kilograms) and China (58 kilograms).


In the last few months, the report highlighted legal and community conflicts about the pile of garbage in Gyeongbuk Province.


The report titled "The plastic problem in Korea has literally become a garbage flame," wrote that in the past few months, the mountain of blackened and burned garbage has become a social problem.


horseshoe shaped garbage pile (Yonhap News)

There are 170,000 tons of garbage piles stacked up in the form of a horseshoe, and recently, as the spontaneous combustions have sprung up, people are suffering from acidic smoke. In particular, smoke coming out of burning plastic is chemically harmful to the human body because it contains toxic gas.


The largest plastic landfill site in Korea, Uesung Trash Landfill, started in 2008 when Kim, who runs a recycling company, received permission to land a trash accessing 2000 tons.


But in 2016, his permission was suddenly canceled, and he arraigned the government and argued upon the decision.


In the meantime, Lee, a garbage power plant operator, received the waste landfill from Kim in 2017. Mr. Lee, who lives in Busan, did not know the dispute in court. As a result, a pile of garbage continuously piled up in the area.


Eventually, trash of more than 80 times of landfill permits were collected, including construction waste, household waste and plastic waste.


Over time, toxic gas spewed out on the surface as the pile of garbage decomposed, and spontaneous combustion started from December last year. When Lee learned of Mr. Kim's misconduct, he disappeared and was off contact, CNN reported.


An official at the Uiseong County Office said, "Most of the garbage accumulated here is from outside," he said. "It was too big of an issue for us to deal with as a regional issue."


Local police are reportedly investigating illegal activities concerning the garbage patch.


According to the Ministry of Environment, 1.2 million tons are being illegally released each year, CNN added. Meanwhile, Korea has been tightening regulations on waste disposal and waste incineration facilities as micro dust has become a social issue in the recent years.


As an outcome, the number of garbage incinerators have decreased from 611 in 2011 to 395 in 2018. Not being able to hold all garbage in Korea, the garbage collections have mainly been exported to China. But in 2017, China has also banned the import of 24 types of solid waste.


China doesn't accept our trash anymore (The Washington Post)

CNN reported that Korea's mass exports of plastic garbage fell by 90% ever since China tightened import restrictions on garbage.


South Korea is turning its attention to other places such as the Philippines and Thailand, CNN reported. Korea's exports of garbage have increased 10 times in the Philippines and 30% in Thailand since the Chinese have taken actions.


Environmental groups are voicing calls for bigger measures to drastically reduce plastic consumption, CNN added.


Source: Daum News

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