China To Ban Free Plastic Bags

Good news today from China, which has announced it will ban free plastic shopping bags on June 1, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Beijing. China's move is meant to cut "white pollution," reduce waste and conserve resources.
Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said China's solid waste is at "a crisis level."

"Their landfills are reaching capacity and will be full in 13 years," she said, adding that a ban like this could be a significant way to educate the public about China's environmental issues.

In the United States, which has less than one-quarter of China's 1.3 billion people, the Sierra Club's Sierra magazine estimates that almost 100 billion plastic bags are thrown out each year.

Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.
Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.

In New York on Wednesday, the City Council was set to vote on a measure that would require large stores to recycle plastic bags.

China's move won praise from environmental organizations including Greenpeace, which issued a statement welcoming the ban.

"The State Council's announcement to ban free plastic bags is a perfect case to combine two of the major forces in environment protection: public participation and government policy guidance," Greenpeace said.

Christopher Flavin, president of Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization in Washington, said: "China is ahead of the U.S. with this policy.

Internationally, legislation to discourage plastic bag use has been passed in parts of South Africa, Ireland and Taiwan, where authorities either tax shoppers who use them or impose fees on companies that distribute them. Bangladesh already bans them, as do at least 30 remote Alaskan villages.

Last year, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the use of petroleum-based plastic bags in large grocery stores. In France, supermarket chains have begun shying away from giving away plastic bags and German stores must pay a recycling fee if they wish to offer them. Ireland's surcharge on bags imposed in 2003 has been credited with sharply reducing demand.
If the United States and other countries with Pacific coastlines were to adopt similar bans, perhaps we might be able to curb the growth of those Pacific Trash Vortices, one of which is now the size of Texas.

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