New regulations worked out to expedite use of fuel recycled from plastic waste

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : March 3, 2022, 18:03 Updated : June 23, 2023, 01:16

[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- South Korea will expedite the use of recycled fuels made from plastic waste for the production of petrochemical products and materials by enforcing new regulations. Recycled fuels are produced through a pyrolysis method involving extreme heat and pressure to break down plastics into oil. 

The Environment Ministry said it would give a 40-day grace period before revising a law governing waste materials to help companies work out new measures for pyrolysis. Previously, pyrolysis facilities were regarded as sites to incinerate discarded materials. However, the amount of waste plastics has significantly increased by 18.9 percent in 2020 when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Korea. 

To reduce environmental problems generated by plastic waste, the method of converting discarded plastics to fuels has been researched. South Korea plans to increase the conversion rate to up to 10 percent by 2030. As of June 2021, about 0.1 percent of recycled plastics were converted through the pyrolysis method. Facilities in charge of pyrolysis have been regarded as burning facilities, but the new law defines them as recycling centers. Hydrogen extracted during the pyrolysis process can be used for charging hydrogen vehicles.

About 50 percent of ocean waste in South Korea is composed of fishnets and buoys made of plastic. The southern port city of Tongyeong is building a recycling center that uses the pyrolysis technique to break down plastic ocean waste into fuel. The city that has one of the country's biggest fish resources will build the facility by the end of 2022 to reuse ocean wastes to power fishing vessels and factories. 

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