Updated regulation launches campaign for better packaging solutions
China sought to restrict and ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic products by updating a plastic industry regulation on Sunday, 12 years after restrictions were first imposed on plastic bags.
Released by China's National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the document promotes alternative products, standardizes recycling and plastic waste use.
The regulation establishes and improves management systems for the production, use, recycling and disposal of plastic products.
By the end of 2020, non-biodegradable plastic products like bags will be banned in municipalities, provincial capitals and some pilot cities.
Non-biodegradable disposable plastic straws will be banned nationwide.
By the end of 2022, star-level hotels will stop providing free non-biodegradable plastic products.
By the end of 2025, non-biodegradable plastic bags and agricultural mulch less than 0.01 millimeter thick will prohibited nationwide, especially in rural areas.
Carrier companies are not allowed to use non-biodegradable plastic packaging.
The regulation was regarded as an amendment to previous restrictions on plastic bags, regarded as a somewhat successful reform.
Markets and stores were no longer allowed to provide plastic bags for free, according to a 2008 regulation that restricted the production, selling and use of plastic shopping bags less than 0.025 mm thick.
Although an average 8.75 billion plastic bags were saved each year since the regulation was released by the General Office of the State Council, nationwide waste plastic reportedly increased rather than decreased.
China's annual use of plastic bags exceeds 4 million tons and about 3 billion plastic bags are used daily, media reported in September.
With the development of e-commerce, express delivery, takeout and other new business forms, consumption of plastic lunchboxes and plastic packaging increased rapidly, causing a new environmental pressure, Ma Jun, director of Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The unsatisfactory quality of alternative products rendered the 2008 regulation less successful than hoped, Ma noted.
Biodegradable plastic bags are also "weaker and less durable than non-biodegradable plastic bags," he said.
In 2016, China's delivery industry consumed about 14.7 billion plastic bags, while food delivery platforms consumed 7.3 billion plastic packages.
In the latest regulation, plastic companies are required to provide reliable recyclable and biodegradable products.
Cloth bags, paper bags and other non-plastic packaging and biodegradable materials are encouraged.
Plastic products are necessities of life and impossible to totally ban, said Luo Yameng, a Beijing-based environmental protection and eco-city expert.
Non-biodegradable plastic waste harms farmland, pollutes waterways and species, Luo said, calling on the government should carefully supervise the regulation's implementation.
The regulation reads that an evaluation standard for enterprises will be applied.
The illegal production, sale or use of plastic products will be recorded as a breach of trust and severely punished in accordance with the law.
Ma suggested the government talk to industry representatives and reach a common settlement that stimulates initiative and makes for easier supervision.
He also suggested communication between countries, sharing experiences with each other.
"I totally support the new regulation and I hope biodegradable will come soon as I feel guilty every time I throw away plastic bags that are mostly non-degradable," internet user Yancang posted Sunday in response to the updated regulation, receiving more than 350 likes by press time.
"It's also beneficial to the next generation," wrote Yangcang.