SEJONG, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- The government's implementation of raising deposits on recyclable empty bottles caused more people to return them for money in the first half of the year, the Environment Ministry said Wednesday.
According to the ministry, the rate of empty beer and soju bottles that consumers returned under a "money back for your empty bottles" scheme rose from an average of 30 percent last year to 47 percent in the January-June period.
The ministry attributed the rise to a government measure, effective in January, to increase deposits on empty bottles of soju and beer to 100 won (around US$0.10) and 130 won (around $0.12), respectively, from 40 won and 50 won.
Under the scheme, people are encouraged to return empty bottles for money. The idea of making empty bottles worth about $0.1 or higher is aimed at not only reducing waste but also helping cut bottle production expenses.
Amid the public's heightened awareness of the deposit scheme, implemented from 1985, the rate of empty bottles collected from customers has been on a steady rise from 24 percent in 2014 and 2015.
The ministry expects that the higher rate of empty bottles being returned will give rise to the average number of recycled bottles from the current 8 to the level of advanced countries -- 40 to 50 in Germany, 30 in Finland, 28 in Japan and 20 in Canada.
If the number of bottles being recycled increases to 20, local beverage companies could decrease their production costs by an estimated 82.2 billion won, the ministry said.
As part of efforts to increase the empty bottle return rate, the government is mulling over a plan to increase the number of automatic machines for collecting empty bottles across the country. There are currently such machines in 108 places nationwide.
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