China announced this week that production and use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail shops will be banned beginning June 1. This new law could have a considerably positive environmental impact, given that Chinese citizens “use as many as 3 billion plastic bags a day.” The law is part of a larger campaign to fight “white pollution” in China, which includes other forms of rampant plastic and styrofoam use as well.
This bold and surprising move demonstrates that the Chinese government is starting to take pollution concerns seriously. While a few city governments here in the U.S. have passed (San Francisco) or are considering passing similar legislation (New York), it is refreshing to see a national government as powerful and influential as the China make such a decision.
So, how will plastics manufacturers, retailers, and citizens react? Anecdotal comments from the AP story show that citizens and retailers welcome the move. Sturdier plastic bags will continue to be available and the manufacturing of cloth bags can be expected to rise. In addition, Reuters reported that the Chinese government “signaled it may tweak the tax code to give the recycling industry a boost.”
Could this law trigger similar laws from other national governments? How could this work in the U.S.? I invite readers from the San Francisco region to comment on the effectiveness of plastic ban regulation in their city.