A campaign was launched in Beijing yesterday to fight "white pollution" by reducing the use of plastic carrier bags.
Volunteers will distribute environment-friendly cloth bags at Ito Yokado and Lotus Center supermarkets over the next two weekends.
More than 15,000 of the reusable bags will be distributed, the equivalent of 7.5 million plastic bags, according to project leaders.
Behind the initiative are China Charity Federation, Beijing Committee of China Communist Youth League, Beijing Volunteers Association and World Vision China.
"If people use a cloth bag at a supermarket for shopping, they can probably reuse it up to 500 times," Wang Chao, vice-director of World Vision China, said.
Statistics from the organization indicate that the Chinese use 2 billion plastic bags every day.
"In the five supermarkets of Ito Yokado in Beijing, we will send out 100,000 bags of different sizes every day," said Shen Yingying, from the supermarket.
Some customers have already started bringing their own cloth bags with them to carry their shopping home.
"I have used the cloth bags for three or four years," said Wang Ying, a resident in Beijing.
"And cashiers in supermarkets are fine about it when I use my own bags."
However, a mass conversion to the use of cloth bags is unlikely to happen quickly.
"Plastic bags offer great convenience to consumers," said another resident, surnamed Sun. "My family use the plastic bags from supermarkets as garbage bags."
Wang Yue, from Beijing Committee of China Communist Youth League, said: "It is a step by step process."
"The government should play a role by developing policies to reduce the use of plastic bags, such as levying taxation on such products," Wang said.
Other measures to try to protect the environment have already been taken by supermarkets in the capital. Wal-Mart, for example, uses biodegradable plastic bags at their outlets.
(China Daily January 11, 2006)