CHINA – More than 50% of China’s consumer goods are excessively packaged, according to a recent report by state media People’s Daily, which went on to blast these wasteful practices while extolling Western sustainable initiatives.
In the report, the state media cited examples of excessive packaging, including the wrapping of four apples in polythene and presented on a non-recyclable polystyrene tray.
It also noted that of the 1.2 billion shirts produced by China annually, 800 million are currently packed in boxes which require 240,000 tons of paper, in addition to individual wrappers – of this, only 20% is recycled.
“The amount of packaging produced in this country is simply excessive,” it concluded.
Calling this a “global issue”, another state media outlet China Daily cautioned: “In many parts of the world a large proportion of retail packaging ends up in landfills where it takes a long time to decompose and even then the waste can give off gases and toxins that pollute the air and water.”
However, China Daily noted, “some parts of the world have acted”, highlighting the European Union’s 1994 packaging waste directive, Britain’s Packaging Waste Recovery Notes (PRNs), as well as the Green Dot system used by Germany.
The state media warned that on the hand, because the problem of excessive packaging is still “poorly understood” in China, this “complicates efforts to address the environmental impact of discarded packaging materials”.
The best way to combat excessive packaging, China Daily suggested, is for retailers to be “required to reduce unnecessary packaging… reduce waste if they do not voluntarily make cuts”.
An “end-market for recycled material and encouraging appropriate disposal” should also be created, the state media said.
However, bearing in mind that the Chinese State Council does use the state media to educate its public and prepare them for impending legislation, the most interesting solution offered by China Daily was the Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) introduction of “a waste diversion rule to put the onus for recycling on manufacturers”.
“The impact of packaging waste on the environment can be minimized by prudently selecting materials,” it summarized.
In China’s Method for Administration on Recycling Packaging Materials – a Master-Plan state strategy that outlines the country’s vision for a Circular Economy - recommendations and plans for upcoming legislation that limits packaging, lays responsibility for waste management on brand owners and producers etc are laid out.
For more information on the Method and other packaging and environmental legislation in China, click here.