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Retailers face big fines for violating plastic ban
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Retailers may be fined up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,430) for providing free plastic bags to shoppers, the Ministry of Commerce has proposed.

A clerk fills a plastic bag for customers at a supermarket in Zhengzhou, central China's Henan Province, April 2, 2008. Retailers may be fined up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,430) for providing free plastic bags to shoppers, the Ministry of Commerce has proposed.

The penalty will take effect from June 1, according to a draft regulation published on the ministry's website to solicit public opinion till April 14.

The move follows a ban announced in January on the manufacture, sale and use of ultra-thin plastic bags (defined as less than 0.025 mm thick) from June 1 as part of efforts to protect the environment and save energy.

The draft regulation says retailers can set the price for plastic bags, but not below cost.

They also have to include the price of the bags on customer receipts, or face fines of up to 5,000 yuan.

The regulation does not apply to plastic packaging for frozen or cooked food.

Meanwhile, retailers have to allow customers to carry their own bags or baskets; and are encouraged to provide eco-friendly substitutes.

Retailers believe the regulation will help reduce the use of plastic bags.

"We have been encouraging customers to bring bags, and we think most of them will choose to do so when we stop providing free bags," said Li Li, head cashier at a Beijing WuMart supermarket.

Most customers interviewed by China Daily at the supermarket welcomed the ban.

"I will bring a large fabric bag, and I don't think it will cause any inconvenience. It is a good policy to protect our environment," said a retired worker surnamed Wang.

(China Daily April 10, 2008)

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