A campaign to fight "white pollution" by reducing the use of plastic carrier bags was launched yesterday.
Environmentally friendly cloth bags will be distributed to Ito Yokado and Lotus Centre supermarkets in Beijing over the next two weekends.
More than 15,000 of the reusable bags will be handed over by volunteers the equivalent of 7.5 million plastic bags, according to project leaders.
The initiative has been set up by 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," said Wang Chao, vice-director of World Vision China.
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.
"And in the time of festivals or promotions, about 130,000 plastic bags will be taken away by customers every day."
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 all fine 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 waste 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 of policy-making to reduce the use of plastic bags, such as levying taxation on 'white' products."
Other measures to try to protect the environment have already been taken by outlets in the capital.
Wal-Mart Supermarkets in Beijing use degradable plastic bags in their outlets.
(China Daily January 11, 2006)