On May 26, 2011, China’s Development and Reform Commission announced that plastic bag usage in the country’s retail places has dropped by 24 billion after 3 years of implementation of the “plastic bag restriction order”.  These 24 billion plastic bags reduction results in saving approximately 60,000 tons of plastics, which is equivalent to saving 3.6 million tons of oil or 5 million tons of coals, and cutting carbon dioxide emission by over 10 million tons.

The “Notice to restrict the production, sale, and usage of plastic shopping bag”, or the “plastic bag restriction order” was issued by the State Council in 2007. The order bans any production, sale, or usage of plastic shopping bags with thickness less than 0.025 mm, starting from June 1, 2008. Further, no supermarkets, shopping malls, flea markets, or other retail establishments are allowed to provide free shopping bags. The plastic shopping bags must be paid for by consumers at these places.

According to the Conservation and Environmental Protection Bureau, after the promulgation of the restriction order, usage of plastic shopping bags in China’s supermarkets and shopping malls have decreased by more than two-thirds, which helps to contain the “white pollution” problem.

However, is this convenient for the consumers? There are people who waste plastic bags, which accumulate in landfills. But many people find that plastic shopping bags are convenient for not only holding items bought at supermarket, but also can be used as garbage bags at home, leakage protection for lunch boxes, and other purposes. Due to the large population of China – over 1.3 billion people, this order may be necessary to control unnecessary waste. Recently some towns and cities in the US that are advanced in “green mentality” are debating whether to ban plastic shopping bags as well. Certain retail chains such as Audi do not provide free plastic shopping bags in the US, you have to either buy them or use a paper box. Nevertheless, this practice has not yet been wide-spread in the US. Let’s see how it evolves in the future. Remember people had functioned before plastic bags were invented.

 

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