CHINA – The Chinese northeastern province of Jilin has banned the production and sale of single-use non-degradable plastic shopping bags and cutlery from 1 January 2015.
The law was first announced by the General Office of the People’s Government of Jilin Province on 3 March 2014, and aims to “protect and improve the ecological environment, conserve resources, and curb pollution brought about by plastic shopping bags and plastic cutlery”.
The law only targets plastic shopping bags that are not compostable; it does not include retail packaging and packaging for pre-packed fresh and cooked food products.
Where cutlery is concerned, the law bans non-degradable plastic lunch boxes, trays, cups, bowls, and plates.
Companies are not allowed to produce and sell non-degradable plastic shopping bags and cutlery, while retail outlets are also banned from selling and/or giving away the said products. Businesses will have to keep proper plastic purchase and/or sale records for inspection.
Producers found in violation can be fined between RMB 10,000 to 30,000, while retailers in violation can face fines of between RMB 500 to 5,000.
Promoting biodegradable packaging
The legislation also calls for the promotion of biodegradable plastic packaging to replace the banned products.
In a separate document released on 21 July 2014, the Jilin provincial government elaborated on this with a set of instructions for different governmental agencies to carry out.
For example, the Provincial Quality Supervision Bureau had to develop standards and testing methods for polylactic acid (PLA) biodegradable products by 1 October 2014, and start implementing them from 1 December 2014.
Provincial government departments involved in development and reform, industry and information technology, economic and technical cooperation etc were tasked with ensuring a steady supply of biodegradable products.
“Business departments at all levels should strengthen the link between production and demand market circulation, and organize alternative product market supply to meet market demand,” the document stated.
Meanwhile, the task of developing administrative and approval procedures and a “filing system… to establish record information sharing mechanism” was given to the Provincial Development and Reform Commission. Other departments were also tasked with establishing accounting systems, monitoring and inspection systems, as well as an “accountability system” to prevent corruption.
In addition, the province’s environmental protection administrative departments were ordered to “carry out the prevention and control of non-degradable plastic bags, plastic cutlery and related pollution supervision and management.”
The city is also working on developing a consumer waste separation system to improve waste collection and recycling.
On New Year’s Day, local media reported that the first stop law enforcement officers made was to a dumpling takeaway store in Changchun City which was still using plastic containers; the stall owner said he would “immediately stop the use of ‘substandard’ products and think of alternatives”.
Vegetable and meat stalls at a traditional market, a large supermarket, and some food stalls were also inspected and found to be using PLA plastic products.
It is still unclear though, how strictly enforced will the ban be. However, local compostable bags and food container manufacturers in Jilin are ramping up production, or in the process of increasing capacity, according to local media reports.
One such company, biodegradable bag producer Jilin Yitian Biotec Co Ltd which runs two production lines 24/7, is planning to increase its annual production capacity from its current 1,000 tons to 3,000 tons by June this year.
Meanwhile, a PLA resin facility by state-owned China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp, as well as a lactic acid project by Changchun Dacheng Industrial Group Co Ltd are expected to produce bioresin locally.
See related stories:
- Regulations for the bioplastics industry in China
- Supportive measures for the bioplastics industry in China