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Foreign Waste Polluting Clean Sea Areas in Korea

Posted January. 09, 2010 07:02,   


An increasing volume of foreign waste is drifting toward Korea’s southern and western coastal areas, the results of a joint study released yesterday said.

Eleven civic environmental groups said in a report that sea waste from other countries account for 20 percent of garbage found on the two coastal areas in 2008, up from 12 percent in 2006.

Among some 6,000 waste items found in the areas, 1,420 came from other countries. Waste from China accounted for 74 percent and that from Japan six percent.

Residents of Ahn Island in South Jeolla Province collected trash along seashores in three public works projects until the end of October last year.

“I have no idea how to clean up this mess in less than three months after we just had a major cleanup,” an island representative said. “On an uninhibited island nearby, discarded Styrofoam has piled up to chest level, but we simply cannot touch them.”

Foreign waste floating in international waters approach Korea’s coastal areas on a sea current flowing southeast in March and April every year. Typhoons that hit the area in June to August also lead to an influx of trash.

Organizers of the 2012 Yeosu Expo are on a heightened alert. “We had no idea so much trash would drift toward this area,” an official of the Yeosu organizing committee said, adding the central government will be asked to take action.

The southern coastal city collects some 3,000 tons of sea trash per year and ships them to inland sites to burn general waste and recycle Styrofoam. Yeosu, however, simply lacks the capacity to separate foreign waste from domestic.

Experts say that the government should deal with the foreign waste via diplomacy, proposing an integrated waste management system for each country and region ahead of the 2012 World Expo.

A senior member of an environmental research group in the Gwangyang Bay area said Korea is not alone in suffering from sea waste, urging Seoul to hold an international conference on regional marine trash.