According to the plans put forward by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China will reportedly ban plastic bags in major cities by the end of 2020 and in smaller cities and towns by 2022.
The plan further targets a variety of plastic items, with other measures reportedly including calls for the phase-out of plastic takeaway items and shipping packages as well as a ban on single-use straws in restaurants.
According to CNN (who also quote Oxford’s Our World in Data), China is the world’s largest producer of plastics as well as the world’s largest producer of plastic waste, although on a per capita basis the average Chinese person discards ¼ - ½ of the plastic waste discarded by the average US resident.
Analysis and Comments
China is the largest importer of polyethylene in the world – it consumed more than 33m metric tons in 2019, 40% of which it imported from producers in the Middle East and other Asian countries.
The ban comes after China announced that its largest mega-dump site filled up 25 years ahead of schedule (it’s the size of 100 football fields and received 10,000 tonnes of waste per day rather than the anticipated 2,500).
Specifically, some of the additional measures so far reported in the news include:
A ban on the production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick
A ban on single-use straws in restaurants by the end of 2020
A mandate that restaurants reduce the use of plastic items by 30%
A mandate that hotels not give out free plastic items after 2025
Notably, it also seems like the government is promoting biodegradable materials (e.g. for bags) a lot as the policy reportedly recommends to replace bags with biodegradable plastics. This could obviously see a notable uptick in demand for plastic alternatives.
On a related note, BBC is reporting that following Bejing’s crackdown on plastic, there's now also to be a ban on illegally produced wood as well. For those who don’t know, China has had a huge issue with illegal logging for years, with its huge demand for raw materials driving large-scale corruption in forestry.