Paying for plastic bags

Plastic bags have become such an environmental hazard that the Chinese Government is taking drastic measures to curb it.

The Star, January 15, 2007

SHOPPERS in China will have to pay for plastic bags at supermarkets and other retail stores as part of a nationwide crackdown on the environmentally damaging items, the Chinese Government has announced. 

The production, sale and use of plastic shopping bags thinner than 0.025mm will also be banned completely, the State Council said in a statement posted on its website last Tuesday. 

“Plastic shopping bags, due to reasons such as excessive use and inefficient recycling, have caused serious energy and resources waste and environment pollution,” the statement said. 

“The super thin bags have especially become a main source of plastic pollution as they are easy to break and thus disposed of carelessly.” 

The new rules will take effect starting June 1, but the State Council did not provide details on how much shoppers will have to pay for the bags. 

The statement said companies would be urged to produce bags that are more endurable and recyclable, while consumers will be encouraged to use plastic shopping bags more sensibly. 

Chinese people use up to three billion plastic bags a day and the country has to refine five million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil every year to make plastics used for packaging, according to a report on the website of China Trade News ( 

In the booming southern city of Shenzhen, at least 1.75 billion plastic bags are used each year, according to previous data released by local authorities and published by the official Xinhua news agency. 

Shenzhen’s environmental protection department said the bags were posing a huge environmental problem, as they generally did not decompose for 200 years, while some never would at all, Xinhua reported. 

Ahead of the national directive, Shenzhen announced in November it was considering placing fees on the use of plastic bags, with fines of up to RM22,000 for retailers that gave them away for free. – AFP

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