Plastic Bags: Banned in China

From Treehugger– If China can do it:

The notice that appeared on the website of China’s State Council yesterday came as a welcome surprise: Starting in June, all shops will be forbidden from offering free plastic bags. Meanwhile, super-thin bags have been banned. Consumers are being asked to “go back to” using cloth bags and baskets. Meanwhile, Tibet’s provincial government announced that it intends to ban all plastic bags period.

By targeting those pesky bags, China joins a growing club that includes Ireland, Uganda, South Africa, Russia, Hong Kong, and San Francisco. With the right enforcement — that’s always the tricky part — and education campaigns, the upshot in China could be huge: China Trade News estimates that the country of 1.3 billion people must refine 5 million tons, or 37 million barrels, of crude oil every year to meet demand for plastic bags, which are used at a rate of 3 billion bags every day.

Three billion. If that estimate is right, that means China uses as many bags in two weeks as the U.S. uses in a year–or that would mean that each Chinese citizen uses twice the amount of bags Americans use every day.

…Australia is also considering a plastic bag ban, for implementation in 2009. But as Planet Ark founder Jon Dee points out, “the fact that China desires to do it in less than six months, I think is a sign that we could do it faster than that.


The “FREE” single-use plastic bag issue is, of course, an ecological and cultural issue in the PRODUCTION segment of turning matter into product into trash. If you checked out The Story of Stuff and were interested, consider downloading the script (pdf) from the author with annotations and comments.

I’m trying to turn Annie Leonard’s piece into a 700 word synopsis for the paper, hoping to find the balance point between enough and too much information.

Also check out the sidebar list of NGOs involved in the five stages of stuff, as well as a great “recommended reading” list, all of which I’ve saved using the Firefox add-on, Scrapbook, for future reference.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Light flexible bags are in wide use because, well, they are immensely convenient and USEFUL. In their production and disposal are several problems to overcome. They are a petroleum product. They do not decompose in their plastic form. And even if a biodegradable alternative were created (which is being worked on) there is still the problem of shopping bag litter–visually as ugly no matter what they are made of.

    We reuse every bag at least once, typically to line the kitchen trashcan. If shopping bags are banned, will we 1) buy plastic bags specifically for this purpose, or 2) dump our kitchen waste directly into the green box (dumpster) from an unlined kitchen container that will have to be washed out after every emptying?

  2. When I lived in Tomball Texas the town provided heavy duty paper bags for trash. The were great. Here in Virginia, I used to line my garbage with paper but have fallen into the convenience trap of using plastic. I take all my clean plastic bags to the Harvest Moon for reuse. I would like to see, if not a ban, some kind of planned reduction of plastic. Plastic zoning! I’ve recently been reading about phalates (a plastic softener and solvent) from body lotion etc are now in our bodies messing with our hormons and causing damage to organs. It’s in plastic toys that kids bite and chew as well.

  3. Good for China! I don’t say that often. Getting rid of plastic grocery and shopping bags would be a huge boon to the ecology. I already try to use cloth tote bags whenever possible, as when I go to Harvest Moon. And yeah, those pthalates are really bad. As part of the estrogen-mimicing compounds found in plastics and lotions, they are producing gender-bending effects in fishes in our rivers, and in the oceans near sewage outlets. They are lowering the sperm counts drastically in males in industrialized nations and possibly implicated in the rise in breast cancer.

  4. “the story of stuff” is a very well done pice. I have e-mailed it to more than one friend including a friend that works at a school.

    I have for the most part stoped using plastic myself, I found “green” bags at a drug store for $1 each and bought 5, I also bought a few little bags that fold up to the size of a small cup of coffee (6oz) they have a clip that allows me to clip it on to my purse. I live on the coast and thoes bags pop up every where.

  5. This is inspiring — to echo Bruce, Good for China!
    I don’t know how many times I go to the grocery store and say “I don’t need a bag,” only to have the cashier literally INSIST that I take one. An actual conversation:
    “I don’t need a bag.”
    “Oh, that’s okay. I don’t mind.”
    “Really, I don’t need one — I’m just going to my car.”
    “Well, I’ll give you one anyway. It’s no trouble at all, honey!”
    “I don’t want a bag.”
    “It’ll be easier to carry. Credit or debit?”