SEOUL - South Korea is to ban major supermarkets and retailers nationwide from using disposable plastic bags in an attempt to conserve natural resources and reduce recyclable waste, government officials were reported as saying on Monday (Dec 31).

The ban will come into effect on Tuesday (Jan 1) as part of a revised law on conserving resources and encouraging the reuse of recyclable waste, reported Yonhap news agency.

Subject to the ban are 2,000 outlets of major discount chains and 11,000 supermarkets with sales floor spaces of 165 sq m or more, the report said. Currently, such retailers are banned from handing out free plastic bags.

Under the new regulation, shops are required to offer customers recyclable containers, cloth shopping bags or paper bags.

Stores that violate the ban could face fines of up to three million won (S$3,680), Yonhap said.

Plastic containers for wet goods, such as meat and fish, will still be used.

Some 18,000 bakeries nationwide will also be barred from handing out free disposable plastic bags after the new law kicks in.

In cooperation with local governments, the Environment Ministry plans to encourage the affected stores to observe the ban from January through March.

The ministry is also pushing ahead with a plan to reduce the use of plastic garment bags at laundry shops.

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