Some 1,200 metric tons of plastic waste shipped back to Korea from the Philippines in January and 3,400 tons of waste stopped from illegally being exported are to be incinerated starting Wednesday.
The Pyongtaek city government will send the unrecyclable garbage currently held at Pyeongtaek Port to four Gyeonggi-area private incineration facilities.
Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae is set to visit the port for an on-site inspection on Wednesday to oversee the process, according to the ministry.
The processing of the waste, expected to take one to two months, will cost the municipality an estimated 1 billion won ($876,000).
The first batch of the plastic waste, which a Korean company had illegally exported to the Philippines as reusable plastic material in July last year, arrived at the port in early February amid international criticism.
The company falsely declared the waste as recyclable “plastic synthetic flakes” to obtain approval for export to the Philippines, but the waste consisted of various unrecyclable items, including plastic straws, used diapers and electronic waste.
The Philippine customs office demanded the Korean government take back the waste after it identified containers filled with garbage in Mindanao in November. Seoul agreed to repatriate it in late December.
With the company refusing the ministry’s request to take back the waste, the Korean government paid for the garbage to be brought to the Korean port. The Environment Ministry plans to charge the company for the expenses, it said.
Seoul is currently consulting with Manila to decide when and how to take back the remaining 5,100 tons of waste, which are being held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal in Misamis Oriental province, according to the ministry.
Much of the world’s unrecyclable plastics are flocking to Southeast Asia after China banned the import of plastic waste. Dumping plastic waste in Southeast Asia, where regulations are relatively lax, is cheaper than processing it here.