China needs more efforts to fully ban free plastic bags 2008-07-02 14:27:11   Print

    By Xinhua writer Wu Qi

    BEIJING, July 2 (Xinhua) -- With her grandson in tow, granny Zhao Hanlian set out to a nearby farm produce fair. Then she remembered that she had forgotten something and hurried back gasping to her fourth-storey home -- not her glasses nor money, but a cloth bag.

    Over the past month, the 65-year-old housewife in central China's Henan Province has made sure that she carries a cloth bag whenever she goes shopping.

    "Here are your yams," said a peddler nimbly loading six of them into granny Zhao's cloth bag in the downtown market at Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan. For the past month, peddlers on the market have not supplied free plastic bags because of a new decree in China.

    Leaving the farm produce fair, granny Zhao turned off to a nearby chemist's for some cough medicine for her grandson. A salesgirl put the medicines in a paper bag -- no free plastic bag either.

    "It is really inconvenient if I forget to bring a bag with me," said Zhao, who has enjoyed the convenience of free plastic shopping bags for more than a decade.

    From June 1, all Chinese retailers, including supermarkets, department stores and grocery shops, have been banned from providing free plastic shopping bags because of their damage to the environment. China has also banned the production of ultra-thin plastic bags, thinner than 0.025 millimeters.

    "It doesn't matter how much a plastic shopping bag costs. What matters is our sense of environmental protection," Zhao said.

    Changing people's habit has proved effective, particularly in large cities, where customers often carry their own bags when shopping.

    Large supermarkets in Zhengzhou have reduced the use of plastic bags by 80 percent, said Jian Hui, the Erqi outlet of Beijing Hualian supermarket group in Zhengzhou.

    According to an estimate from the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, every two people would consume at least one plastic bag per day before June 1. At least 1,300 tonnes of oil must be consumed every day to produce enough plastic shopping bags to satisfy supermarket demandalone.

    "Plastic bags are difficult to degrade," said Men Xiaowei, an official with the Ministry of Commerce. "The plastic waste accounted for more than 3 percent to 5 percent of the daily waste,most of which came from plastic bags."

Editor: Wang Hongjiang
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