China will ban disposable plastic. The transition will take place gradually and will affect some products before others, big cities before small towns. The announcement was made by the National Commission for Development and Reforms and the Ministry of Ecology of China with a joint statement explaining their plan to ban the use of most of the disposable plastic circulating in the country within 2025.
The plan provides for the gradual prohibition of the production and sale of some disposable plastic products such as non-biodegradable bags, plates and disposable straws, and cotton swabs, which are among the most polluting and most difficult to recycle products.
The revolution will start first from the capital and from big cities and gradually it will be extended to smaller urban centers. The first to say goodbye are non-biodegradable plastic bags, which will be banned in shopping centers, supermarkets and in home catering by the end of 2020 in the metropolises, and then by the end of 2022 in all the main Chinese cities and in the urban areas of coastal regions, up to a complete ban across the country by the end of 2025. Initially, the note specifies, the ban will not affect city markets.
By the end of 2020, plastic straws will be banned in the catering sector across the country, while initially plastic tableware will be banned only in major cities: usage is expected to decrease by 30 percent in all restaurants in the country by the end of 2025. For the same date, hotels will no longer be allowed to supply disposable plastic items, and throughout China no postal service will be allowed to use plastic packaging.
An ambitious plan that responds to the need to limit the use of disposable plastic but that alone is not enough. The document, in fact, also invites to promote the use of alternative products, such as cloth, paper or biodegradable bags, and to strengthen the waste recycling system, starting with an increase in separate collection in large cities.
The new law will mainly serve to decrease the use of plastic in catering. According to a study by the University of Shenzen and the University of Michigan, home food is one of the main causes of the spread of disposable plastic in China: according to data, in 2017 it generated 1.6 million tons of packaging waste nine times more than two years ago.
The plan is part of a larger project by China – a country that produces around 215 million tons of municipal waste per year – to encourage new models of waste disposal. In fact, China is one of the main culprits of the pollution caused by plastic waste, together with Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
According to a UNEP report, the United Nations Environment Program, more than half of the plastic present in the oceans comes from these countries and solving the plastic waste problem in Southeast Asia is indispensable for solving it worldwide .