South Korea to ban imports for plastics and mixed paper, introduce tough standards for OCC

Busan Port South Korea
Busan Port in South Korea

South Korea’s Ministry of Environment has announced a roadmap that will see the prohibition of almost all waste imports with the exception of scrap metals by 2023.

This means that under the roadmap, South Korea will reduce imports or introduce restrictions on 3.84 million tonnes of material compared to 2019’s total imports of 3.98 million tonnes.


The first items to be banned will be waste plastics, mixed waste papers and waste textile fibres in 2022.

Korea will soon develop quality standards on waste corrugated cardboard imports that will be based on criteria including tensile strength, rupture strength and more. Only materials that meet this import standard, which will be higher quality than Korean domestic material, will be allowed into the country when it is introduced in 2023.

The measures are now being consulted on and are expected to be confirmed in February. They are being introduced in order to capture more material from domestic recycling collections.

South Korean Ministry of Environment resource recycling policy officer Hong Dong-gon said: “Since side effects such as accumulation of domestic waste and rejection of collection are recurring due to the import of waste, a minimum institutional arrangement is necessary to limit imports if it can be replaced with domestic waste.

“Prior to the confirmation of the ‘step-by-step implementation plan (roadmap)’ of import bans and restrictions, we plan to minimise the domestic impact of the import ban by collecting opinions from related industries and supporting the use of domestic substitutes.”

Last year, South Korea introduced inspections on paper imports and notification procedures prior to shipment. It also temporarily banned plastic imports due to Covid.

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