South Korea bans recycled plastic imports due to Covid-19, plus requires notification on paper imports

Busan Port South Korea
Busan Port in South Korea

South Korea has banned recycled plastic imports after revealing that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an excess of the material.

The country’s Ministry of Environment said that it “is trying to ban the import of waste plastic…to promote domestic waste recycling” and that due to the fall in oil prices and the impact of Covid-19, the amount of “accumulated waste plastics in Korea has increased”.


The ban began on 30 June 2020.

In particular, the grades that are banned are waste PET, PE, PP and PS.

However, it will permit exceptions to the ban on recycled plastic imports if it isn’t possible to procure material on the domestic market, or the head of the local environmental office admits that import permits are required in special cases.

Uncontaminated flakes and pellets from recycled sources will also be permitted for import.

South Korea also intends to strengthen its management of wastes, including eventually requiring insurance when importing or exporting waste materials. It also wants to introduce on-site inspections prior to customs clearance.

Ministry of Environment resource recycling policy officer Lee Young-Ki said: “For the protection of the environment and the health of the people, it is necessary to limit the import of waste that can be replaced in Korea.”

The same Ministry also announced that from 3 July 2020 imports of waste paper will need to be notified.

From this date, importers will need to report to the local environment office with a waste disposal and transportation plan plus a hazardous substance analysis report.

According to the Ministry, an average of 1.5 million tonnes of waste paper has been imported into Korea each year.

Lee Young-Ki added: “There have been many cases where waste paper contaminated with foreign substances was illegally brought into Korea due to the drop in international prices. We will prevent that act from happening.”

In March, South Korea announced that it would introduce full inspections of waste paper and its intention to ban import of recycled PET bottles.

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