CHINA – In the five years following China’s implementation of a ban on ultra-thin plastic shopping bags, consumption of such packaging has reduced by at least 67 billion bags, or the equivalent of six million tonnes of oil, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
China banned the production, distribution and use of plastic shopping bags thinner than 0.025 microns in supermarkets, department stores and grocery stores from 1 June 2008.
Li Jing, vice chief of energy-saving and environmental protection department under the NDRC, the government economy agency working directly under the State Council, said that since the ban was implemented, usage of plastic bags in general has dropped by more than two-thirds.
He also noted that retail outlets have distributed 67 billion fewer plastic bags – the equivalent of one million metric tons of plastic.
However, the International Food Packaging Association said that the ban has not been implemented effectively and thoroughly enough, and ultra-thin plastic shopping bags are still being used in China.
The Chinese association conducted a survey just prior to the fifth anniversary of the ban and visited 10 chain supermarkets, 10 open-air traditional markets and three wholesale markets.
In its survey report, the association said that in general, supermarkets are adhering to the legislation. All supermarkets surveyed provided plastic bags for a fee, but only four chains provided bags equivalent to or thicker than 0.025 microns.
In contrast, all open-air traditional markets, wholesale markets and roadside stalls visited provided plastic bags for free, and only one out of the 10 open-air traditional markets provided plastic bags thicker than 0.025 microns.
"Ultra-thin plastic bags are very likely produced by illegal manufacturers with cheap recycled plastics and pose heath risks to consumers if they are used to contain food," said Dong Jinshi, deputy director of the International Food Packaging Association.
Calling on the authorities to strengthen its supervision on the manufacture and sale of plastic bags to ensure ultra-thin plastic bags do not enter the market, Dong added, "Moreover, the government can preferentially encourage enterprises to improve research and development into more environmentally friendly policies, such as tax reductions.”
Acknowledging ultra-thin plastic bags are still in circulation and that some retailers still offer free bags, Li Jing said the government would tighten supervision and better enforce the ban in the future.
For more information on China’s environmental packaging legislation, click here.