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Amendments to the Waste Regulations


Recently, the Ministry of Environment (“MOE”) has been actively pursuing amendments related to the Waste Control Act (“WCA”). We will explain the details of (number 1) the Enforcement Rules of the amended WCA (effective as of August 11, 2023) and (number 2) the amendments to the Enforcement Decree and Enforcement Rules of the WCA that the MOE proposed in August 2023.


The Enforcement Rules of the Amended WCA

Pursuant to Annex 11 of the amended Enforcement Rule of the WCA (which went into effect as of August 11, 2023), (i) a waste incineration facility (or incineration heat recovery facility) is required to treat waste within the disposal capacity (or recycling capacity) that was permitted, approved, or reported in advance, and (ii) if the amount of heat generated by the waste incineration facility is less than the facility’s designed heat generation capacity, waste may be additionally incinerated within a range not exceeding 30% of the disposal volume.

  • In the Supreme Court Decision 2019Du49359, rendered on June 11, 2020, the Supreme Court held that an act of increasing the incineration volume by simply increasing the operation time of incineration facilities (without the expansion of incineration facilities) does not constitute a “change in the disposal capacity” under Article 29, Paragraph 1, Item 2, Sub-item (e) of the former Enforcement Rules of the WCA (the version before the amendment pursuant to the MOE’s Ordinance No. 796 dated December 31, 2018).

  • Accordingly, the issue of whether the incineration of wastes in excess of the permitted disposal capacity could not be sanctioned under the WCA was raised. However, the amendment to the Enforcement Rules of the WCA now clarified the standards for waste treatment (incineration) at waste incineration facilities (or incineration heat recovery facilities). For reference, if an entity treats waste in excess of the permitted disposal capacity (or recycling capacity) in violation of the above standards, or in excess of 130% of the disposal capacity (if the amount of heat generated is less than the designed heat generation capacity), the entity may be subject to criminal penalties as well as administrative sanctions for violating the standards for management of waste treatment facilities.


The Amendments to the Enforcement Decree and Enforcement Rules of the WCA

In addition, the MOE is seeking to amend the subordinate regulations of the WCA to further rationalize the regulations. The key details of the proposed amendments to the Enforcement Decree and the Enforcement Rules are summarized below.

  • Reorganization of the waste management system: The main goal of the amendment is to supplement the standards by unifying the process of collection, transportation, and disposal of wastes (including hazardous chemical substances) that have been separately managed under the WCA and the Chemicals Control Act (“CCA”). In particular, the amended WCA changed the term “toxic waste” (that was managed as designated waste under the WCA) to “hazardous chemical waste” [Annex 1 of the Enforcement Decree of the WCA], which would include, among toxic chemicals listed under Article 2 of the CCA, restricted substances, permitted substances, prohibited substances, and accident-prone substances. In addition, the relevant criteria have been supplemented as follows:

[Annex No. 14-4 of the Enforcement Rules] The following items now need to be indicated in the hazard information form: (i) whether waste is toxic, (ii) whether hazardous chemical substances are included in waste and, if so, their volume, and (iii) any conditions/substances to be avoided.

[Annex 5 of the Enforcement Rules] Additional standards for storage, treatment, collection, and transportation of waste (including hazardous chemical substances) were added. 

① (Storage) ▲Classify and store substances using partitions or partition lines in consideration of the reactivity between substances ▲check the risk of substances before mixing in storage tanks ▲install ventilation equipment in storage facilities and ▲install lighting equipment in storage facilities
② (Treatment) ▲Conditions for handling flammable substances and ▲addition of treatment standards in case of steam generation
③ (Collection/Transportation) ▲Installation of emergency shut-off valves in transport vehicles ▲provision of control drugs, equipment, and personal protective equipment, and ▲prohibition of mixed transportation of interactive substances

[Annex 9 of the Enforcement Rules] Additional facility standards for facilities treating waste (including hazardous chemical substances) were added. The additional standards require:

① Piping materials having mechanical and chemical properties suitable for handling the relevant material; ② painting of pipes; ③ measures to prevent pipe leakage and to ensure finishing; ④ installation of reverse-flow blocking facilities for piping facilities (from storage to warehouse combustion room); and ⑤ installation of measuring devices inside storage facilities (e.g., thermometers, hygrometers, liquidometers, pressure gauges, etc.)

[Annex 10 of the Enforcement Rules] A regular inspection of high-temperature incineration facilities was added as a requirement (in consideration of the conditions for high-temperature incineration of hazardous chemical waste).

  • Improvement of regulations on EV waste batteries: (i) [Article 10 of the Enforcement Rules] The duty to install waste recycling facilities (the duty currently imposed when obtaining a license for waste recycling business to recycle waste batteries from electric vehicles into reused products) will be exempted. (ii) [Article 31 of the Enforcement Rules and Annex 7] For recyclers of EV waste batteries and lithium secondary battery wastes, the permitted waste storage volume will be expanded (from the 30 days’ volume to the 180 days’ volume), and the treatment period will be extended (from 30 to 180 days). 

  • Restriction on installation of small-sized incineration facility: Because small-sized incineration facilities have been subject to the relaxed installation and management standards as well as air pollutant emission standards, concerns over excessive pollutant emissions have been continuously raised. As such, the minimum standard for installation of small-sized incineration facilities will be strengthened from 25kg/hr to 200kg/hr, and the ranges for treatment capacity indicated in the standards for installation and management of incineration facilities will be reduced [Article 36, Annex 5, Annex 9, and Annex 11 of the Enforcement Rules].

The MOE’s recent amendment or proposed amendments to the subordinate regulations of the WCA introduce proactive measures that administrative agencies can take to ensure convenience of business activities as well as deregulation. However, at the same time, those amendments reflect the Government’s strong commitment to enforce laws for acts that may cause environmental pollution and also damage our society as a whole. Accordingly, it is necessary to continue to pay a close attention to the trend of enactment and amendment of waste-related laws that may affect business activities.


[Korean Version]