Posted by adminJanuary 21, 2008News

China bans free plastic bags

With a declaration of war on “white pollution” choking its cities, farms and waterways, China has become the latest nation to target plastic bags in a bid to cut waste and conserve resources, AP journalist Christopher Bodeen reported on Wednesday.

The story attributed the measure that takes effect on June 1 to environmental protection efforts for the Olympic Games.

China is banning free plastic bags common at shops and supermarkets and ordering customers to be charged for any they use, the government said Wednesday.

The rules, which take effect June 1, come as the country tries to tackle a significant source of litter, a statement on the government’s Web site said.

The bags also are banned from all public transportation, including buses, trains and planes and from airports and scenic locations, the government said.

Companies caught breaking the new rules face fines and possible forfeiture of goods, the government said.

Shops have been instructed to mark the price of the plastic bags clearly and not fold them into the cost of other items.

Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said China’s solid waste is at “a crisis level”, but praised China’s new efforts.

“Their landfills are reaching capacity and will be full in 13 years,” she said, adding that a ban like this could be a significant way to educate the public about China’s environmental issues.

China’s move won praise from environmental organizations including Greenpeace, which issued a statement welcoming the ban.

“The State Council’s announcement to ban free plastic bags is a perfect case to combine the two of the major forces in environment protection: public participation and government policy guidance,” Greenpeace said.

The Chinese use up to 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day.

Often, the flimsy bags are used once and discarded, adding to waste in a country grappling with air and water pollution as a result of rapid economic transformation, officials said.

“Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers, the bags also lead to a severe waste of resources and environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling,” the statement at the Web site Gov.cn said. “The ultra-thin bags are the main source of ‘white’ pollution as they can easily get broken and end up as litter.”

The government statement added, “We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables.”

More durable plastic bags still will be allowed for sale by markets and shops, The Associated Press reported.

When the ban goes into effect, China will join countries such as Uganda and South Africa, the statement said.

Bangladesh banned plastic bags four years ago when officials realized they blocked drains and led to flooding. Since then, customers have taken to using bags made of jute or cloth for shopping.

Last year, San Francisco, California, became the first U.S. city to outlaw plastic checkout bags at supermarkets.

(Sources: CNN, 9 January 2008 and China Daily, 11 January 2008)

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