Shoppers in Shanghai have rejected biodegradable plastic bags at local supermarkets because of their higher price compared with ordinary plastic bags.
Under a national plan to promote the Olympics and environmental awareness, Wal-Mart offered biodegradable bags at five Olympic host cities early last month. Three outlets in Shanghai offered the bags.
Since ordinary plastic bags ranging from 0.1 yuan (1.4 US cents) to 0.3 yuan were not available during this time, many costumers turned to non-plastic woven bags costing 1 yuan to 2.5 yuan instead of the environment-friendly plastic bags which cost more than 0.69 yuan each.
"The biodegradable bags are too expensive, as we always need several plastic bags during one shopping. I prefer woven ones, which can be used many times and have a good appearance," said a male customer surnamed Hu while shopping at Wal-Mart's Wujiaochang outlet in Yangpu District. "Anyway, my top choice is still the ordinary plastic bags, which are the cheapest and can be used as trash bags back home."
Hu Minghua, a local Wal-Mart official, admitted that it may take a long time for local customers to accept biodegradable bags given their high cost. But he said it was a useful trial to promote environmental protection.
He said biodegradable bags could be completely broken down within nine months and posed no harm to the environment.
Wal-Mart said it never planned profit from selling biodegradable bags. They said the cost of the bags was high because of the complicated technology required to produce them.
Officials said the supermarket may cooperate with the bag producer to drop costs by improving the manufacture process.
Shanghai Public Sanitary Bureau officials hailed the introduction of biodegradable bags.
Officials said there had not been a significant drop in the use of ordinary plastic bags since the nation ordered a halt of free bags in supermarkets and stores.
"As the final processing facility for local rubbish, we usually bury or burn plastic bags. It takes a very long time for these bags to rot underground. Burning them can result in air pollution," said the official identified as Liu. "Compared with plastic bags sold by supermarkets and stores, free plastic bags offered by stalls in wet markets and small eateries are usually unqualified on thickness. The colorful bags provided at wet markets are sometimes made of used plastic materials that are poisonous."
(Shanghai Daily September 3, 2008)