China moves on takeout containers in bid to reduce plastic waste

by Agence France-Presse

China will ban plastic bags in major cities and single-use straws from restaurants by the end of this year in a bid to cut down on waste.

The country is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic, and the plan targets a 30 percent reduction in disposable plastic utensils used by the takeaway food industry in major cities within five years.

In a document released Sunday, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the production and sale of disposable polystyrene and plastic tableware will be banned by the end of the year.

The plan also outlaws single-use straws in the food and beverage industry this year, while disposable plastic products should not be “actively provided” by hotels by 2022.

Decades of rapid development and a consumption drive have created huge levels of waste in the country of 1.4 billion people.

China produced 210 million tonnes of trash in 2017, according to World Bank figures, which warns that could soar to 500 million tonnes annually by 2030.

The NDRC said the new plan covers all aspects of plastic product production, use and disposal, and paves the way for a “long-term mechanism to control plastic pollution”.

By 2025, authorities plan to effectively control plastic pollution and cut the amount of waste in landfills of key cities, on top of setting up a management system.

The targets extend to plastic packaging used in postal services as well, a massive area of growth in the last decade given China’s booming e-commerce sector.

Postal delivery outlets in areas such as Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu will ban the use of non-degradable plastic packaging and disposable woven bags by the end of 2022.

More than 2.3 billion parcels were shipped in the aftermath of last year’s massive shopping festival known as Singles Day, according to China’s postal authority.

In place of plastic bags, China says it is promoting alternatives such as cloth bags, paper bags and degradable shopping bags in malls and supermarkets.

The document also calls for firms in sectors such as e-commerce and food delivery to cultivate new business models and work with their merchants to reduce waste and disposable plastics.

Last year, Shanghai launched China’s most ambitious garbage separation and recycling programme ever, with a plan to roll it out across over cities.

And in 2018, China banned certain imports of foreign waste that it used to accept for years for recycling, a move that upended global garbage flows.

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