China has made a surprise announcement outlining its plan to tackle plastic pollution head-on with the phasing out of single-use plastics.
What’s more, rather than announcing a multi-decade plan as it usual from governments and corporations alike, China has said that non-degradable bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020, with the rest of the country following two-years later. The legislation states that markets selling fresh produce will be exempt until 2025, and similarly the hotel industry will not be able to offer free single-use plastics by 2025.
The production of plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick has been banned completely, and also included in the legislation is the restaurant industry- which will be banned from using single-use straws by the end of the year; meeting a 30% reduction target of single-use plastics by 2025.
Overall, the raft of changes stipulated in the legislation put forward by the National Development and Reform Commission will be completely implemented over a five-year span of time.
“The country’s largest rubbish dump - the size of around 100 football fields - is already full, 25 years ahead of schedule,” according to a report from the BBC, so the rapid implementation of the legislation reflects the scope of the problem Chinese authorities are grappling with from its 1.4-billion citizens.
The University of Oxford’s ‘Our World in Data’ says that in 2010, China produced 60 million tonnes of plastic waste, with the United States taking second place with 38 million tonnes.
“In 2017, China collected 215 million tonnes of urban household waste,” according to the same report, however, “national figures for recycling are not available.” The country shocked the world in 2017 when it announced a ban on imported plastic waste; up until that year, it was the largest importer of plastic waste.
The move mimics that of policies from Thailand and Indonesia, each of which has banned the single-use plastic bags in department stores and supermarkets by 2021 and June 2020 respectively; Bali has also introduced a ban on single-use plastic.
Interestingly, the Reform Commission has also launched a crackdown on illegally-sourced wood; China is said to be the largest international consumer of illegally-felled wood, according to the BBC who writes that: “now Beijing has amended its law to help timber-producing countries to tackle corruption in forestry. It says it aims to protect forestry resources and supports a ban on cutting of natural forests.”