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An eye on the ban on free plastic bags
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Starting on June 1, all supermarkets, department stores and grocery stores no longer provide free plastic bags to their customers. The current ban on the use of plastic bags is a vital step toward protecting China's environment. But three points regarding this issue must be addressed, according to some environmentalists.

Supermarkets in Guangzhou have ceased providing free plastic bags to their customers. Now customers are shopping with fashionable environmentally friendly bags in Carrefour.

Don't use a knife to cut water

The ban on plastic bags is not the ultimate answer that will save the environment. Other specific steps are needed to enhance environmental protection nation wide, said Wen Hengfeng with the Environmental Education Center of the Global Village Beijing.

Urban supermarkets and department stores must take the lead in the national ban, to be followed gradually by countryside markets and small retailers. This kind of measure is harder to implement in suburban areas, according to Dong Jinshi, vice chairman of the Waste Plastics Recycling Committee of China Plastics Processing Industry Association (WPRC-CPPIA). Much time and effort will be required all over the country, he said.

Who should pay the fees

Some customers cannot understand why the customer, not the trade company, has to pay fees for plastic bags. Fifty-five year old Liu Guizhen told China News Service that she had quarreled with a toll collector over fees because she could not understand why the citizens paid while the trade companies profited.

Some trade companies felt that the fees counteracted their cost. The measure must be beneficial to both the customers and the companies. They have implemented similar measures such as selling environment-friendly bags at extremely low prices to support the ban on the plastic bags. Customers are free to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Fees should become EP fund

With the implementation of the ban, many consumers are concerned how the fees will be distributed. Chi Tianwu, an environmental protection worker, suggested that trade companies regularly turn in their fees to the government. With these funds the government could establish an environmental protection (EP) fund to manage the fees. Funds would further be applied toward environmentally friendly practices: the collection and recycling of abandoned plastic bags, controlling white pollution, prevention and reduction of domestic wastes, research on waste recycling, and environmental protection education.

The June 1 ban on free plastic bags is only the beginning of China's battles to defend and protect the environment.

(China.org.cn by Fan Junmei, June 3, 2008)

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