Multi-year phase-in announced . . .
China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced over the weekend a new ban on single-use plastics while promoting use of biodegradable and recyclable alternatives. Production of plastic cutlery, straws, grocery bags, other disposables, and chemicals containing plastic microbeads will be banned by year’s end, with sales stopping by 2022. Restaurants, hotels, and online retailers must all reduce use of single-use, non-degradable plastics by at least 30 per cent by 2025. The five-year timeline is meant to give plastic producers time to adjust. Implementation over three phases will start in wealthy cities like Shanghai and Beijing, before extending to other cities, and then lastly to rural areas.
Supporting programs recommended . . .
The plastic-ban policy was welcomed by Chinese environmental groups that advocate for stronger government and community action to reduce plastic garbage. Activists agree that targeting pervasive consumer-end plastics – particularly from retail giants like Alibaba, JD.com, and Meituan, which deliver meals or goods bundled in plastic – was a positive start. Pundits argue, however, that there remains a need to implement changes through the entire supply chain and that the policy could be more effective with incentives like deposit-return programs. Although China is the world’s largest plastic producer, Chinese citizens generate less single-use plastic waste per capita than their U.S. counterparts. But given China’s large population combined with poor sorting, recycling, and enforcement programs, there has been little success in curbing China’s plastic waste problem.
A regional trend . . .
China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines have been singled out for their plastic use, especially since it often ends up in oceans threatening marine life. Thailand declared at the start of 2020 a plastic-bag ban for major stores, with hopes for a complete ban by 2021. The country also reported a drastic reduction of two billion plastic bags in 2019, thanks to the increased use of reusable bags. Indonesia, Bali, and Jakarta have also banned plastic bags in markets and malls, and shopkeepers must provide environmentally-friendly options or be fined. Vietnam has carried out campaigns to reduce plastic use, and has considered raising consumption taxes on single-use bags. The Philippines has been considering a plastic-bag ban since 2019, but it remains to be seen if President Duterte will make such a commitment in 2020.
- The New York Times: China says it will ban plastics that pollute its land and water
- Nikkei Asian Review: Southeast Asia Starts to dump single-use plastics
- The Straits Times: Thailand kicks off 2020 with plastic bag ban