Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Plastic Bags

On Sunday, June 1, China began its new restrictions on plastic bags. Some of the flimsiest bags have been banned completely while other plastic bags will no longer be issued for free. Under the new restrictions, stores must charge at least the cost of the bag to the customer.

In a nation of over 1.3 billion people who use around 3 billion plastic bags each day, the plastic bag pollution (commonly referred to here as "white pollution") is really an issue. The government hopes the new restrictions will encourage people to reuse their bags and/or bring their own cloth bags to the stores with them.

On Sunday, I happened to go into our local Trust-Mart and noticed the new plastic bags now have a bar code printed on them and the cashiers ask if you want your groceries bagged and then scan your bags just like any other item you purchase. The bags cost three jiao (about 4 cents) each.

Having seen plenty of bags rolling down our street like tumbleweeds and visiting a few nearby villages where there is not trash pickup and large mounds of bags litter the outskirts of the village, I think the new bag restrictions are a good idea. I also like the idea of charging for the bags rather than banning them outright (a more capitalist solution rather than an authoritarian one). However, I think the small charge may not be significant enough to cause a real reduction in usage. In Ireland, they charge around 33 cents per bag and have seen the usage reduced by over 90%. While that is probably a bit too steep a price for here, I think one yuan (around 15 cents) per bag might be a good amount. Of course, I'm sure the government will have people keeping statistics and making tweaks to the amount as needed.

Many students seem to know that littering is bad but somehow the campus always seems to end up with trash all over the place. I for one will not miss the plastic bags floating around the school grounds in the breeze.

No comments: