“Don’t you find it inconvenient?” The reporter asks this question to cover Jeju residents’ way of life without disposable items – no more paper boxes at supermarkets and disposable utensils at funeral halls. What if you do not have a paper box to put your purchase at a supermarket? Picture yourself not having any disposable cups while a crowd of mourning visitors rush in? The mere thought of living disposables-free sounds excruciatingly inconvenient.
However, the answers of Jeju residents are somewhat unexpected. Most residents answer that they do not find it inconvenient. Some even say that it is a better way of life. It seems that people have no issue with living without disposable items in their daily lives. Few grocery shoppers drop by the self-packaging section. Not any person did buy a paper box during the morning although paper boxes are available after payment with strings and packing tapes provided on the table. With glass noodles, fish and eggs divided into three fabric grocery bags, Lee So-hyun, 44, said that it is a greater nuisance to remove tapes and fold a paper box flat before throwing it away when she takes a paper box home. She finds it way more convenient to use a fabric bag as she can roll it up to use it next time.
The same goes with funeral halls. Mourners wash the dishes to serve visitors. They could have answered that it is inconvenient to serve mourners without disposable utensils during the peak time. However, they said in one voice with a smile on their face that they do not experience any inconvenience daunting enough to make a fuss about. At first, funeral halls were worried that they would have to hire more staff for dish-washing when disposables are not available. However, their worry did not become a reality. The amount of chore is bearable enough. Rather, staffers do not need to refill and clean up disposables any more.
Since last May, Starbucks has given a 300-won discount or a point called an Eco star to customers who bring their own tumbler. In turn, the number of personal tumblers used at Starbucks branches across the country reached 10.819 million cups over the past year, a three-fold increase from 3.896 million cups during the same period in the previous year. This signifies that those with their personal tumblers are rapidly increasing in numbers.
The Ministry of Environment plans to set a roadmap to reduce the use of disposables within the first half of the year. It is expected that the roadmap will describe the limit on disposable items at funeral halls inspired by the successful case of Jeju Island. Many may worry in advance that they will see great inconveniences without disposables in their daily lives. As Jeju residents show a great example of adjusting to living without them, however, humans adapt by nature. It may take some time to get used to a new change, but adaptation is already in our DNA. Furthermore, it is absolutely worth a try if it helps preserve the environment.