South Korea Tightens Hazardous Waste Control

By James Lim

July 28 — South Korea will require designated hazardous waste to be physically separated from other wastes, the Ministry of Environment said July 27.

Beginning Jan. 24, 2016, acidic and alkaline waste, spent oil and organic solvents, synthesized high molecular compounds, dust and sludge will be regulated under South Korea's Waste Control Act.

These materials will have to be handled separately due to their fire, explosion and gas leak risks. In addition, some of these hazardous wastes should be separated so that they do not come into contact with moisture due to their explosion risks, the ministry said.

The rules may be waived if businesses adopt hazard waste elimination procedures or take steps to make hazardous waste safer, according to the ministry.

In addition, businesses generating 100 tons or more of hazardous waste annually and companies treating that waste will be required to install and maintain safeguards such as fire alarms, gas detectors, ventilators and decontamination supplies to prevent leakage and explosion.

These rules are newly written into the law's enforcement degree, as amended July 24. “The new rules provide clarity to vaguely defined waste safety requirements,” the ministry said.

The ministry also announced a plan to develop a take-back program for mercury-containing devices and products to organize the disposal of mercury content.

“We are in the process of formulating safer and more environment-friendly treatment methods for mercury-containing waste such as fluorescent lamps and medical instruments,” Kim Young-woo, director of the Waste Resources Management Division at the ministry, told Bloomberg BNA July 27.

According to the ministry's survey of 169 workplaces with heavy volumes of mercury waste, an annual average of 33.5 tons of mercury was found in their waste between 2012 and 2014.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lim in Seoul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at