He presented an ambitious plan that aims to reduce the use of bags, crockery and other products across the country, bit by bit.
The National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology of China have issued a joint communiqué announcing a plan to ban the use of much of China’s disposable plastic by 2025. The plan provides for a gradual ban on the production and sale of certain disposable plastic products such as non-biodegradable bags, cutlery, plates and straws, and cotton staples, which are among the most polluting and most difficult to recycle.
The plan will be implemented gradually, starting initially in large cities and then extending to smaller urban centers. Non-biodegradable plastic bags, for example, will be banned in shopping malls, supermarkets, and home catering by the end of 2020 in larger cities, and then by the end of 2022 in all major Chinese cities and urban areas in coastal regions, until a complete ban throughout the country by the end of 2025. Initially, the communiqué specifies, the ban will not affect city markets.
Plastic straws, on the other hand, will be banned in the catering sector throughout the country by the end of 2020, while initially plastic tableware will only be banned in major cities: it is expected that by 2025 use will decrease by 30% in all restaurants in the country. In addition, by the end of 2025, hotels will no longer be allowed to supply disposable plastic items and no postal service throughout China will be allowed to use plastic packaging.
The document also calls for the use of alternatives to plastic, such as cloth, paper or biodegradable bags, to be promoted and for the waste recycling system to be strengthened, starting with an increase in a separate collection in large cities. The plan proposed by the Chinese government will mainly serve to reduce the use of plastics in the catering industry, and in particular in the home food market, which is one of the main causes of the spread of disposable plastics in the country: according to a study by the University of Shenzen and the University of Michigan, in 2017 the Chinese home food market generated 1.6 million tonnes of packaging waste, nine times more than two years earlier.
The plan is part of a larger project in China – a country that produces about 215 million tonnes of municipal waste per year – to encourage new waste disposal patterns. As early as 2017, for example, it had decided to reduce imports of plastic and paper waste from abroad, a material considered to be of low quality, whose import and recycling costs were no longer affordable for the Chinese market. Instead, China decided to import only “quality” waste, which is more easily recyclable. This had caused enormous problems for all the countries that had sold their waste to China for years, including Italy, which had suddenly found itself without their largest waste importer.