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South Korea to introduce disposable coffee cup deposit from 2022

New law will make it mandatory for large branded coffee chains to charge a refundable deposit for disposable coffee cups, with smaller café businesses allowed to opt out of the scheme

South Korean branded coffee chains with 100 or more outlets will be required to charge a deposit for disposabe cup usage from 2022 | Photo credit: Nani Williams

South Korea’s largest branded coffee chains will be required to charge customers a refundable deposit for disposable coffee cup usage from 2022. The revised law also bans the use of single-use utensils, including plastic straws and stirrers, for customers consuming food and beverages in-store.
South Korea’s Ministry of Environment said coffee shop businesses with 100 or more outlets would be subject to the new regulation, with smaller operators allowed to opt-out of the scheme.
The exact charge of the disposable cup levy has yet to be announced, but a voluntary initiative that ran from 2002-2008 placed a 50-100 won ($0.4-0.8) deposit on each paper coffee cup used.
The new rules were announced as South Korea’s government attempts to boost faltering recycling rates and reduce single-use waste. Data from the state-run Ministry of Environment shows around 2.5 billion single-use cups were used across South Korea in 2018, with just 5% recovered for recycling – down from a 37% recycle rate in 2009.
The new regulations could have significant operational ramifications for South Korea’s vast branded coffee chain market. World Coffee Portal data shows South Korea is the East Asia’s largest branded café market with 24,905 outlets. Despite ongoing Covid-19 disruption and a remarkably high coffee shop density of 482 per million population, the country's branded coffee chain market still posted outlet growth of 8.3% in 2020.

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