Focus On: Major new policy to reduce single-use plastics across China

Focus On: Major new policy to reduce single-use plastics across China

Despite being one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of plastic, China has revealed major nation wide plans to reduce the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s National Development and Reform Commission has revealed a policy that will target China’s plastic pollution, listing various measures that will see the product and sale of single-use plastics phased out over the next five year

Non-degradable plastic bags are to be banned in all of China’s major cities by the end of 2020, and in all other cities and towns in 2022. Markets selling fresh produce shall be exempt until 2025. The production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick will also be banned.

In the beauty industry, cotton buds will be banned by the end of 2020, and any products containing microbeads will cease production by the end of 2020 and banned from sale by 2022.

By the end of this year, the restaurant industry in China will no longer be allowed to use single-use straws, plastic utensils and polystyrene food containers from takeaway outlets will also be phased out.

By the end of 2022, high-end hotels will be prohibited from offering guests disposable plastic supplies. This policy will apply to all hotels and homestays by 2025.

Additionally, in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, postal services will be unable to use plastic packaging by the end of 2022. The ban will also extend to items such as plastic tape and plastic-lined packaging coming into force by the end of 2025.

For years, China has struggled to deal with the waste its 1.4 billion citizens generate. It is believed to be the planets largest producer of plastic, and it is estimated that 60 million tonnes were produced in 2010 according to Our World In Data, an online publication based at the University of Oxford.

The research that evidenced this was published in 2018 and stated that the “relative global picture is similar in projections up to 2025”.

The country’s largest rubbish dump is the size of around 100 football fields, and is already full, 25 years ahead of schedule. In 2017 alone, China collected 215 million tonnes of urban household waste. National figures for recycling however are not available.

In preparation for these changes, China is already boosting recycling rates and is in the process of building dozens of “comprehensive resource utilisation” bases to ensure that increasing numbers of products are reused as part of its plan to tackle waste.