Bag bother

Plas­tic pol­lu­tion con­tin­ues due to lax en­force­ment of govt ban

Global Times - - Front Page - By Qu Qi­uyan

Most of us have never even tried to imag­ine a life with­out plas­tic bags, but the ubiq­uity of these dis­pos­able con­ve­niences has wreaked havoc on the en­vi­ron­ment. Though the gov­ern­ment is­sued re­stric­tions on car­rier bags in 2008, lax en­force­ment has led to this drive barely be­ing car­ried out.

A street food ven­dor sur­named Wang in Bei­jing’s down­town Dongcheng dis­trict, gives away hun­dreds of free plas­tic bags to his cus­tomers ev­ery day.

“These plas­tic bags are quite cheap so I don’t mind of­fer­ing them to cus­tomers for free,” Wang said of the flimsy bags which are rarely re- used.

Mao Da, the founder of the China Zero Waste Al­liance, a plat­form that pro­motes al­ter­na­tives to land­fills and in­cin­er­a­tion, told the Global Times on Tues­day that only well- known su­per­mar­kets in big cities are now fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s or­der, while most small busi­nesses still of­fer peo­ple free plas­tic bags.

Flimsy en­force­ment

All plas­tic shop­ping bags that are thin­ner than 0.025 mil­lime­ters, which are also re­ferred to as “su­perthin” plas­tic bags, are for­bid­den to be pro­duced, sold or used in China and cus­tomers should pay for plas­tic bags at all shops, stores, mar­kets and su­per­mar­kets, start­ing from June 1 2008, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the State Coun­cil.

The or­der was obeyed at first, with many shop­pers bring­ing their own bags in­stead of pay­ing for them, the Xin­hua News Agency re­ported in July, cit­ing Zhang Hongyan, a su­per­mar­ket em­ployee in Bei­jing.

How­ever, the ini­tial suc­cess proved to have a life­span sim­i­lar to that of a su­per- thin plas­tic bag.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments and all depart­ments are re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing the ban, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the State Coun­cil.

How­ever, Ma ex­plained that the sub­se­quent lax en­force­ment of the ban was a con­se­quence of the fact that “no rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment de­part­ment is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for im­ple­ment­ing and su­per­vis­ing the or­der.”

“It re­flects that there is a lack of a su­per­vi­sion mech­a­nism over the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the or­der and no rel­e­vant de­part­ment gives up­dates on how the or­der is be­ing en­forced these days, which is a sit­u­a­tion that has ex­isted for the whole 9 years since the or­der was first an­nounced,” said Ma.

“An­other cause of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is that no spe­cific re­duc­tion tar­gets were men­tioned in the or­der, which lead to lax im­ple­men­ta­tion,” said Ma.

“Al­though China was a pi­o­neer in im­pos­ing a ban on plas­tic bags, the coun­try has been left be­hind in terms of su­per­vi­sion,” added Ma, men­tion­ing that coun­tries such as Ire­land and Bangladesh have suc­cess­fully re­duced the use of plas­tic bags.

Ire­land has charged con­sumers to use plas­tic bags na­tion­wide since 2002 and Bangladesh com­pletely banned the use of plas­tic bags in the same year, shut­ting down all plas­tic bag man­u­fac­tur­ers since then.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted by the China Youth Daily in May, 86.4 per­cent of the 2,007 peo­ple in­ter­viewed were in fa­vor of fur­ther re­stric­tions on plas­tic bags.

More than 60 per­cent of those in­ter­viewed blamed in­suf­fi­cient gov­ern­ment en­force­ment for the in­ef­fec­tive­ness of the State Coun­cil’s or­der.

In­creas­ing in­comes have also al­lowed peo­ple to af­ford the ex­tra cost of hav­ing to pay for plas­tic bags, the Xin­hua News Agency re­ported in July, cit­ing Liu Jun­hai, a law pro­fes­sor at Renmin Univer­sity of China.

“A few cents is not sig­nif­i­cant for some young con­sumers, so they would rather pur­chase plas­tic bags due to the con­ve­nience,” Zhang added, ac­cord­ing to the Xin­hua re­port.

A to­tal of 71.6 per­cent of those in­ter­viewed said con­sumers are not en­vi­ron­men­tally aware, and nearly 40 per­cent said en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion should be strength­ened.

New chal­lenges

While the plas­tic bag ban ex­ists in name alone, a new plas­tic prob­lem has emerged with the rapid de­vel­op­ment of food take- away on­line plat­forms, the Bei­jing News re­ported on Sun­day.

It is es­ti­mated that there were 256 mil­lion users of on­line take- away plat­forms in 2016 and this group would use 256 mil­lion plas­tic bags and plas­tic food con­tain­ers per day if they each or­dered some­thing to eat once ev­ery day, the China Youth Daily re­ported on Tues­day, adding that each plas­tic con­tainer or bag takes hun­dreds of years to de­grade.

Some lead­ing on­line take- away plat­forms are car­ry­ing out mea­sures to pro­tect against plas­tic pol­lu­tion.

Food de­liv­ery app ele. me told the Global Times on Tues­day that it has pro­moted a project in which users and restau­rants can pay for more eco- friendly con­tain­ers since 2011 and it also swapped its old plas­tic bags for bio- degrad­able ones in April, with the first batch be­ing sent to Shang­hai and such en­vi­ron­men­tal- friendly bags now be­ing pro­moted all over the coun­try.

Photo: IC

Trash cov­ers a Hong Kong res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity in the wake of Typhoon Hato on Au­gust 23.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.