Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220


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Published online February 15, 2024

Journal of Ecology and Environment (2024) 48:08

Plastic recycling in South Korea: problems, challenges, and policy recommendations in the endemic era

Uhram Song1 and Hun Park2*

1Department of Biology, Jeju National University, Jeju 63243, Republic of Korea
2OJEong Resilience Institute (OJERI), Korea University, Seoul 02841, Republic of Korea

Correspondence to:Hun Park

Received: November 7, 2023; Revised: January 11, 2024; Accepted: January 15, 2024

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit The publisher of this article is The Ecological Society of Korea in collaboration with The Korean Society of Limnology


Background: Despite many environmental problems, plastic waste emissions have been a significant surge during last few decades in the Republic of Korea. Furthermore, the emergence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has lead to an increased use and disposal of plastic waste worldwide. This paper tried to present summarized data related to the production and disposal of plastics especially before and after the COVID-19 pandemic with environmental impacts of plastics. Also, review of plastic waste reduction policies and feasible policies to promote an act for a safe, sustainable environment are presented.
Results: Plastics cause many environmental problems due to their non-degrading properties and have a huge direct and indirect impact on Ecosystems and Public Health. Microplastics need a lot of attention because their environmental effects are not yet fully identified. Despite plastic’s significant impact on climate change, the impact is not yet widely known to the public. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of plastic has surged and recycling has decreased due to the increase in delivery food and online shopping. Korea is introducing very active plastic and waste management policies, but it is necessary to implement more active policies by referring to the cases of other countries.
Conclusions: In this article, we have scrutinized the evolution of plastic waste generation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and delved into policy frameworks adopted by other nations, which South Korea can draw valuable lessons from. The formidable challenges posed by plastic waste, the remarkable shifts witnessed during the COVID-19 era, and the multifaceted response strategies elucidated in this paper all play a pivotal role in steering South Korea toward a sustainable future.

Keywords: climate change, microplastics, plastic recycling, recycling policy, sustainable

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Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220