National Development and Reform Commission

Laurel-2018.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is following the European Union (EU) in committing to phase out single use plastics. The NDRC has announced a number of bans including of plastic bags and a cut of 30% in single use plastics in restaurants by 2025. Hotels must have stopped offering single use plastics by 2025 too, by when it will also be illegal to make and sell plastic bags that are less than 0.025mm thick.

The statement from the NDRC includes some pretty draconian steps, according to ClimateAction, a global media and events platform for business, public organisations and government. The Chinese want to create “a beautiful China” so by the end of 2020 a number of prohibitions will be in place. These include bans on nondegradable plastic bags in supermarkets, shopping malls, bookshops, chemists and take-out restaurants. Open air markets selling fresh foods have until the end of 2025 to comply. The production and sale of plastic cutlery and cotton swabs will be banned and plastic microbeads will be banned from consumer products. Also by the end of 2020 nonbiodegradeable plastics, straws and cutlery will be banned in major cities and wealthy provinces and all single-use plastics will be banned throughout China by 2026.

China used to be a dumping ground for lots of western waste but in 2017 banned its import. This has created all sorts of complicated ripples, not least for plastic but also for printed papers, once but no longer a source of raw materials for new papers in China. As part of its NDRC statement the Chinese government intends to regulate recycling and disposal of waste plastic with increased collections and recycling activities. Industry associations are to be “guided” and to take the lead on plastic pollution reduction.

China is the world’s second biggest producer of wasted plastic after the US which on a per capita basis is the world leader. Its population of around 327 million produces 38 million tonnes per year: 116 kilograms per person. Cutting the 60 million tonnes of waste plastic China’s 1.4 billion citizens produce every year (40 kilograms per person) needs draconian effort, so the bans in cities and wealthy regions is a start. But it can only work, if it is properly implemented and policed and this could be hard within such a short time frame, not least because building new habits takes time. For many, many decades it’s been considered uncool to drop litter in developed countries, and yet still it happens.

But China is making a laudable effort to fix the plastics pollution problem and given its size, it will make a difference. Perhaps the US federal government might take note and come up with something similar to support the many states who are struggling to cut plastic waste.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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