The State Council issued a notice on Tuesday requiring all
supermarkets, grocery stores and free markets to stop providing
free plastic bags from June 1 this year, and called for people to
use baskets or cloth bags for shopping.
In fact, a similar ban has been, or is being rolled out in an
increasing number of regions and countries because plastic bags are
ending up in landfill sites.
It can take some 300 years for plastic bags to break down. Some
of the bags are not even biodegradable.
The notice orders a complete ban on the production and use of
ultra-thin plastic bags (thinner than 0.025 mm) that are not
biodegradable. New criteria will be made on the production of
It is estimated that millions of plastic bags are used every day
in China and billions of yuan is needed every year to treat or
Calls for the ban have been made for years but never have we
adopted any substantial measures to deal with the issue.
This is not only because most of us take it for granted that
free bags must be provided by supermarkets or grocery stores for
what we buy, but also a well-administered process is needed to ban
supermarkets, groceries or free markets from handing out free
plastic bags to shoppers.
But very few of us can turn a blind eye to the environmental
problems plastic bags have caused. What we cannot see directly is
the great waste the excessive use of plastic bags has brought about
to the already scarce supply of oil resources.
Charging for the use of plastic bags may be a way to wake up the
collective unconsciousness about the environmental hazard this
invention of the 20th century has caused to our planet.
To prevent the devastation of the environment by plastic bags
from becoming worse and the waste their use has incurred, it is
absolutely right to ban any market from handing out free plastic
A single notice is not enough for the ban to be administered to
the letter by all the supermarkets, grocery stores and free
markets. An effective mechanism must be designed by the central
authorities to monitor how the ban is carried out at these
The notice says that governments at various levels must be
responsible for the ban to be placed exactly where they should be,
and those who fail to do so will face disciplinary penalties. We
hope that the penalties will be severe enough to push relevant
departments to pay enough attention to the issue.
(China Daily January 10, 2008)