Credit: "Phototheque VEOLIA - Alexandre Dupeyron"

The Land of the Morning Calm is committed to responsible growth

Posted on 22 June 2017.

South Korea has set ambitious targets for sustainable development - a process in which Veolia participates with its plastic recycling solution.

Beginning in the 1970s, South Korea enjoyed a spectacular boom and is now the 13th largest economy in the world. But prosperity has a downside: coupled with a high population density, its economic growth has blown greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of waste produced by the country sky high.

The sustainable development challenge

In the 2000s South Korea decided to embark on a path of responsible growth, particularly focusing on developing its recycling infrastructure and reducing CO2 emissions.

In 2003, the country joined the extended producer responsibility program set up by the OECD – it involves engaging all the stakeholders involved in a product life cycle (from design to recycling) in reducing the volume of waste.

In 2008, the country unveiled its plan for "green growth with low carbon emissions" and in 2016 at COP 21, it committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2030. According to the new President’s inauguration in May 2017, he committed to raise the proportion of electricity generated from renewable energy from 1.1% to 20% by 2030 – nearly double the target of 11.7% proposed by the previous government.

It is still the 4th largest importer of energy in the world and the 7th largest emitter of CO2. In addition its industries are also responsible for producing 80% of the country's waste.

A concrete example: recycling plastic

One of the solutions that will help to achieve the green revolution sought by the South Korean government is implementing a more circular economy, by transforming the waste from one industry into raw materials for another. In line with this, new legislation on the landfill/incineration charges will be enforced to promote more resource recirculation from the wastes.

Veolia has set up a plastic waste recycling solution in Yongin, in the province of Gyeonggi – it is the first installation of its type in South Korea. Every year, 24,000 metric tons of waste is processed into very high quality plastic pellets or flakes. These are then sold to industries for use as raw material to produce more plastic goods.

This solution helps industries and municipalities to achieve the recycling targets set by the South Korean Ministry of the Environment under the extended producer responsibility program, thereby avoiding the financial penalties associated with failure.

Since using recycled plastic is less energy-intensive and less polluting than producing new plastic, Veolia is also helping the plastics industry to reduce its CO2 emissions.

Find out more:

- EcoCycle turns plastic waste into solid fuel in Korea