South Korea retailers stepping up to go greener

To mark World Environment Day, South Korea retailers are touting their efforts to protect the environment, by producing less waste and selling eco-friendly goods.

Homeplus said it will eliminate all disposable cups at the office and switch to tumblers instead.

According to the discount store chain, about 11.6 billion disposable paper cups are binned in Korea each year, and it takes roughly 500 years for a disposable cup to biodegrade.

Its supermarket chain Homeplus Express will also expand grocery cart and reusable shopping bag rental services to raise awareness about sustainability.

“Everyone in operations understands that making eco-friendly choices is part of our overall job description,” a Homeplus official said. “We will launch more campaigns to show our strong determination to save the environment.”

Lotte Shopping’s Vice Chairman Lee Won-joon also vowed to reduce the use of plastic by engaging in a “plastic free challenge,” designed to promote the use of eco-friendly alternatives instead of single-use plastics.

“It’s the small practices that lead to a big change. We plan to carry out active eco-friendly campaigns with our affiliates,” Lee said.

Starbucks Coffee Korea, which introduced paper straws to all of its stores nationwide in November 2018, has rolled out paper gift cards and food packages made from a compostable material called polyactic acid plastic, or PLA. This type of plastic is commonly derived from corn.

“Sustainability is an important part of our business,” a Starbucks Coffee Korea official said. “Last year, we were very successful with reducing the use of plastic straws by 50 percent. We will continue on with our ‘Greener’ campaign”

Meanwhile, cosmetic brand Amorepacific signed a memorandum of understanding with global recycling company TerraCycle on Monday to agree to recycle at least 100 tons of plastic beauty product bottles in the next three years.

“The plastic issue has become more of a social problem, which companies should take responsibility for. Thus we will prepare for a ‘no plastic’ era by recycling empty plastic bottles and developing eco-friendly products,” an Amorepacific official said.

The Hyundai Department Store is holding an eco-fair, with 20 brands selling eco-friendly products at its branch in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province until June 9. Shinsegae Department Store has also been promoting its eco-market, which opened at its Gangnam branch in Seoul.

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