Jeju coasts are suffering from marine debris. Although Jeju Province spends billions of won every year to collect and dispose of marine debris, it’s still not enough. This is because there is no systematic waste disposal system built for marine debris containing salt and foreign objects. According to Jeju Province on Feb. 19th, the annual collection of marine garbage by year amount to 14,065 tons in 2015, 9,043 tons in 2016, 12,513 tons in 2017, 13,403 tons in 2018, and 11,760 (tentative) tons last year. The province spends over 6 billion won every year to collect and dispose of marine debris.
Many different kinds of marine debris arrive at the coasts of Jeju, including waste styrofoam, wastes dumped from domestic and Chinese fishing boats, and various household garbage such as beverage bottles and disposable food packaging. Marine debris is mostly driven to Seogwipo-si, south of Jeju Island, via the southeast wind between spring and summer, and to Jeju-si, north of Jeju Island, via the northwest wind between autumn and winter. As the problem grows severe, the province operated the first “Clean Jeju Coastal Guards” in 2017, collecting marine debris from all coasts of the province. Local government officials, public workers, and NGOs in each municipality are also working hard to retrieve marine debris, but the amount of trash is staggering to be collected on time.
The disposal process is also demanding. The collection of marine debris must be completed quickly before the tide enters. For this reason, the waste is collected without differentiating them into plastics, vinyl, waste wood, and waste nets.
As a result, recyclables, combustible, and non-combustible wastes are mixed together, and because of high salt and water content, incinerators in the province are reluctant to accept them as they may cause the equipment to break down. The handling of offshore wastes are commissioned to private companies, but due to the large volume of waste, unprocessed wastes are piled up like mountains in the 15 collection sites throughout the province.
After separating recyclable materials from the collected marine debris, the disposal process costs 400,000 won per ton until final incineration is completed. In the past, marine trash, a mix of domestic wastes and seaweed such as algae and gulfweed, have been buried in landfills because it was difficult to incinerate them. This has been one of the causes of premature saturation of landfills in the province.
For this reason, pre-treatment waste disposal facilities, which can remove salt and foreign substances as well as sort and separate wastes, were proposed last year for easy recycling and incineration of marine debris. But after failing to secure the national budget, it became difficult to install the facility.
An official from the province remarked, “A large amount of marine debris arrives in Jeju every year due to the geographical nature of the island, but it is not easy to collect and dispose of them.” The official added, “Pre-treatment facilities are necessary to establish a systematic marine garbage disposal system. We plan to ask the government for the budget again this year.”
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